When I was nine years old, I was a volunteer at the computer lab in my elementary school. I worked with a very large and rather affable teacher by the name of Mr. Caplan. I would help wipe down the monitorsand the keyboards of the thirty or so Apple Macintosh IIs set in four rows, atop cheap yet sturdy brown folding tables. I went to school early and help Mr. Caplan clean and straighten out the lab, pushing chairs in, wiping the dusty tops of monitors and polishing their glass screens. As time wore on, I got to know Mr. Caplan, and we became friends.
December snuck up on me and on the last day of school before the winter recess, Mr. Caplan surprised me. He handed me a gift that was exquisitely wrapped, asking me to open it. I was delighted at the discovery of what lay beneath that fancy ribbon and festive paper. It was a hardcover journal. My eyes were immediately drawn to the shiny smooth cover that depicted wispy hand-drawn animals from the African Savannah. Lions and zebras mysteriously rose from blades of grass that were drifting and swaying in the warm breeze of a setting sun, all set on a sleepy smooth beige background. I remember holding the solidly built journal, feeling that I had just obtained something important. Why it was important was beyond my youthful years. Despite that fourth grade ignorance, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. Mr. Caplan was a very insightful person, and this gift to me reflected that intuition. He knew that I was a gifted writer because he was friends with my teacher, Ms. Cannone. That was the reason he gave me the journal: to encourage me to write. I remember the twinkling spark in his eyes and the wide expressively uncontrolled smile he had on his face when he told me that he hoped to see the pages of my new journal filled with my wonderful writing.That was the first journal I ever used. I carried that with me for four years, even though I was never a big fan of animals. For those four years, I kept very good care of it. I respected it and even revered it to a certain extent. To this day I still have it. And although I did not write in it as much as I would’ve liked (the lines were not college ruled), I always made sure to remember the reason that it was given to me.My search for a proper vessel for my literary thoughts started more than ten years ago. I knew the importance of having the right tools for the job. The same way labeling theory can subtly influence bad kids to become criminals, having a journal that you enjoy writing in and a pen that you enjoy writing with can influence you to become a better (or at least more prolific) writer. The right kind of journal can evoke a literary sense, igniting sparks of inspiration.
The Moleskine is a journal whose cover is bound in oilcloth, a leathery looking material. Its pages are acid-free and smooth, a gentle off-white that is easy on the eyes and the pen. I was one of the first to start using them, at least here in America. I first ordered them on the Internet, before they were easily available at popular stores like Barnes and Noble. I knew of their history as one of the favorite notebooks of famous writers and artists of a different era: an era when quality and craftsmanship were valued, an era when thingsweremade lovingly by hand, a product whose superior construction was worth more than its value in currency. Henry Chatwin knew this: when he found out that the sole provider of his beloved notebooks was going out of business, he went and bought up as many as he could. That’s exactly the same thing that I would do.
I love my Moleskine notebook. The black oilcloth evokes a sense of privacy, even mystery. The bookmark whose ever so slightly purple sheen serves as a reminder that no matter how fast and far life forges ahead, your words and thoughts will forever be recorded on those cream colored pages. I use my Moleskine notebook for my creative endeavors, at times when I must scribble down with ferocity the glimpses of future characters or bursts of drama, lest they float into the misty realm of the forgotten. The simple yet elegant design of the Moleskine has served the needs of creative minds for years.
Yet these days it seems that the Moleskine notebook is a part of the accessory kit of the hip. I’ve seen on so many occasions those hipster fellows (the type who wear faux military field caps, skinny jeans, and tight fitting sport coats) breaking out their Moleskines. I had to endure an entire semester of one hipster taking notes in his Moleskine with a Bic pen. I peered over and saw that he was mostly doodling. And he was no artist, I can tell you that.
Aside from hipsters, I just see a lot of average Joe Schlubs using the Moleskine. And I find it ever so slightly offensive. See, with a tradition of serving the creative and the thinkers, I hold the Moleskine in high regard. I recognize the traits of a Moleskine that make it a most appropriate tool for writers and artists. And as such, when I see people violating that great tradition, it irks me. Most people do not require the higher quality of the Moleskine. Spending the extra money on such a notebook is just lost on them. It’s as if a millionaire went and bought the finest cheeses to consume, only to say that he would much prefer American cheese instead of gruyere. People don’t appreciate the history, tradition, and craftsmanship in a Moleskine. Just look at all the people butchering their Moleskines into wallets and other such monstrosities. I’m all for innovation and all, but really, some of these things are just too much.
No, the Moleskine notebook will not make you a better writer. Yes, it is sort of a piece of accessory for the image you wish to project (if you’re into the whole asinine trend of superficiality). But really, there are so many alternatives to the Moleskine. Yet so many whose needs do not require a Moleskine choose to use it. It remains popular because it is used by hipsters and people who are cool. With the masses of sheep grazing upon the field of consumerism, the spread of the Moleskine is inevitable. And frankly, it’s disappointing to see such a beautiful little utility go the way of hipsterism and commercialism. It is a shame to see the Moleskine becoming defiled by so many people. I imagine that Henry Chatwin is rolling in his grave right now.
More reading on the Moleskine:
The Legendary Notebook
Moleskine Company Info
Want to Feel Rich and Hip?
Moleskine-An Elitist Notebook for People Who Recognize Quality