[wpcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]Since its resurrection in 1997 by a small Milanese publisher, and especially following its bookstore marketing push of the early 2000s, Moleskine has become the Kleenex of the pocket notebook market, with its increasingly lexicalized brand name now used to describe an entire morphological category of paper products. Their own history pamphlet traces a lengthy provenance, from Van Gogh to Hemingway, interestingly ending with Bruce Chatwin, whom they make out to be the Peter Beard meets Robert Walser of Moleskine writers. A collector long before their resurgence, Chatwin has filled hundreds of the notebooks; I’d love to see his archive.
The real reason behind the notebook’s success, in a market flooded with cheap, mass-produced products, is the simplicity of the product. Real luxury is the elegant pairing of quality with function, and Moleskine clings to that model, offering very little flash. That said, their simple elegance extends into the more practical elements of their design: notebooks are available with a wide range of paper demarcation, from blank, lined, and graphed paper to pages with more eclectic storyboarding panels and music clefs. The European Paper Company even offers a notebook with cold-pressed, cotton-fiber paper, specifically designed to withstand watercolor paints, and their Reporter’s Style Notebook, with top-bound pages. Beyond that, most styles of the notebook feature 16 detachable pages for notes, and all include a pocket for two-dimensional mementos.
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The Moleskine Cahiers ($7.95), at 3.5 by 5.5″, packaged in a suite of three, are particularly suited for travel. Seen here in red, they’re also available in their classic matte black, kraft brown, and navy blue. Mine have accompanied me to Burundi, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, and South Africa. Their paper is thick enough for collage—after experimenting with double-sided tape, superglue, and liquid paste, I settled on a simple glue stick. Their pages absorb ink quickly without bleed-through. Though these dimensions might deter some prose writers, short-form writing is possible if occasionally cramped. Its diminutive size is perfect for lyric poetry, and encourages frequent note taking. The notebooks encourage creative play, as the many online Moleskine communities prove. I’m particularly proud of my collage comics and aphorisms, like “Soft rock, hard cock.”