The Moleskine. Mol-a-skeen’-a. Yet another cult classic, and why shouldn’t it be? This little black notebook’s got its fans cutting hearts out and launching virgins off the summit of Krakatoa, all for its furtive anonymity, acid-free paper, and unembellished distinction. Okay, hyperbolic, yes–but still, you don’t see enthusiastic blogs, reviews or even movie “sightings” about Mead or Composition notebooks do you?
I came across this notebook while on a trip to Italy and France in 2004. The auspicious day took place in small bookstore by the corner of a cafe in Rome. It was a musty souvenir shop, slightly dim and dusty with slivers of sunlight streaming from a small window. By the door lay the biggest St. Bernard I have even seen, nearly akin to a grizzly bear rug except this dog had it’s tongue out and had a slight wheezing in its breathing. A moderately attractive italian woman in her sixties who had an orange glow from her sultry affair with the sun, stood behind a counter and spoke to me in italian. She had a raspy voice and muffled something incomprehensible to me behind the cigarette that kissed her mouth.
“Notebooks?” I asked. She pointed towards the back end of her shop where a few shelves were frosted with notebooks adorned the ubiquitous Mona Lisa, The Vitruvian Man, and a cherub cutout from Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. All sprawled out on the wooden shelf were images raped by mass production and printed for the hoarding consumers that we are. Why not hang a neon sign that read “tourist” around my neck instead? Yes, I was one by the strict definition of the word, but I chose to define myself as a traveller. One who wasn’t just there for the postcard photographs. I wanted to be there for the art, food, coffee, wine, and the company of locals, not adorn every single printable surface I own with a cherub.
Usually, images attract my attention. Colors tickle my fancy. But on that day, a plain and unassuming notebook just below the high renaissance artists, reeled me in. I was curiously attracted to the simplicity of its design, and I’ve been hooked, ever since. Black and leather-bound, like a fetish of sorts. The paper isn’t even white–as if by some guided intuition, it doesn’t flaunt purity, not even the eggshell shade of frailty. This notebook was created to know your sins, your secrets, and desires. I’d like to believe that it is a pale rendition of flesh tones. The corporeal canvass that will soon be inhabited by our savage and even carnal longing.
The irony we choose not to see is that the mere fact that they’ve printed out and included a pamphlet (in every book) stating the history of this legendary notebook, where; Van Gogh, Matisse, Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin (among many others) have used Moleskine’s for their craft, we are vulnerable to it’s key selling point: celebrities. The high-brow kind: Artists. Poets. Writers. When you think about it, it’s no different from cherubs or naked men gingerly touching fingers halfway across heaven and earth. Moleskine just took it off the front page and stuck a leaflet in its back pocket. In fact so many others have trailed along the bread crumbs left behind by this journal. Nevertheless, why do we continue to stack up on it today as if there were a great notebook supply crash? Hoarding, anyone?
This is all attributed to the fact that NO other notebook has inspired and brought people from around the world to unite for the sole purpose of creativity. No other notebook has done tours, traveling from city to city like a moveable feast (I hear you, Hemingway). Perhaps, it is with the sense of community that comes along with it that one can find a sense of belonging. It is the experience. The possibility of creative thought framed between its pages, the solitude in putting it all together and finally the elation of sharing it with others.
A Moleskine is more than just a notebook. You know it’s serious when you start writing down an “As a Reward” figure on the fist page of your journal. Moleskine has made it easier for you by printing out an “In case of loss, please return to…” and a rewards area where you are free to narcissistically place value for your scrawls and scribbles. Seriously though, if you happened to write and lose the epic poem of the century, you’d give leg and limb to get it back. Moleskine assumes that you’re not just writing grocery lists and random phone numbers in there.
Several varieties are available; one for every split personality you carry with you. For the doodlers and artists, the sketchbook. The OCD inflicted planner, the daily and monthly diaries. For the budding Anderson Coopers, the reporter. For music prodigy, the math geek, the pack rats (memo pocket), the traveller, the thinkers, the poets and writers. The list goes on. But personally, I prefer freedom of space. The plain notebook–the one I call mine.
To lose a passport was the least of one’s worries. To lose a notebook was a catastrophe. — Bruce Chatwin (Travel Writer/ Moleskine advocate)
Now, In case you find yourself shopping around for a notebook and feel like spending for your thoughts, when in doubt on what to buy ask yourself: WWJD? No, not Jesus. I’m talking about Jones, as in Indiana. As in, The Last Crusade. What Would Jones Do? Steer clear of the bejeweled chalice, my friends, we all know how that ends. The simplest of cups, the most unpretentious of all chalices is what ultimately held the blood, wine, insight and answers to life. As far as Moleskine notebooks go, it is essentially, just a blank page. Like an empty cup. What we make of it is what makes it special. It is you that summons the creative forces from thought, pen, to paper that brings it to life. But if you do fill the cup, perhaps an inveterate thirst will be quenched.
However inspiring this notebook may be, the muse will not undress and reveal itself before you. The green fairy is not a centerfold bonus inlay. You won’t win the Pulitzer just by writing your name. Let it bear witness to your life: leather-bound, pulled together with an elastic band and restrained to some degree, somewhere between your Moleskine’s pages you just might find out what makes you feel alive.
You can visit Moleskine at: http://www.moleskine.com/