Do you love them or hate them?
I think I'll always love writing in Moleskine notebooks. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but have a wonderfully simple, classic design. I use one almost everyday, and even make gifts of them to loved ones. But there is something unwholesome about the image of the Moleskine notebook that's deep-rooted and unsettling. And it bothers me.
The Moleskine advertising campaign is a perfect example of aspirational consumerism. Its far-reaching romantic mythology is little more than a marketing ploy, intended to pamper a narcissistic sense of our innermost creative selves. I mean, really: who among us doesn't secretly consider themselves a creative and free-thinking individual? Moleskine is a cunning little exploitation of this rather pleasant feeling: and it prompts our sense of selves more fully, but at a price.
To inscribe your name onto the front page of a Moleskine is not so much a practicality as a pledge: in the case of it being lost, we are forced to ask ourselves how much we would be willing to pay to ensure its safe return. And so, even though the item is still in our possession, we are already selling our Moleskines back to ourselves - no doubt under the vain pretext of essential personal insights it might one day contain.
It's very easy to judge a notebook by its cover; to value the brand of a product rather than its content; but it's worth remembering that if you want to write down your thoughts you don't need to pay a fortune for the privilege. Picking up a Moleskine does not make you a Picasso, any more than drinking a Martini makes you James Bond. The idea that artistry passes somehow exclusively through a specific brand-name is laughable. Think about it: Picasso, Chatwin, Hemingway. What links these men together? Okay, aside from their convenient iconic status as artistic cornerstones? Not much.
These men aren't even linked by the Moleskine: a notebook that was not mass-produced or branded while any of them were alive.
I'm surprised by how far Moleskine have gone to secure some kind of stable link with the artistic, creative community. For a start there's 'Detour': "a Moleskine project dedicated to traveling culture and creativity worldwide. An itinerant group show that features Moleskine notebooks created by internationally recognized artists, architects, film directors, graphic designers, illustrators, and writers..." Yes, yes, we get the picture. But where do we fit, exactly? After all, when we walk into our nearest stationary store the Moleskine notebooks are all blank aren't they? Isn't it us who should be doing the writing?
The UK Moleskine website has even stooped to modifying literary quotations, in a rather embarrassing attempt to secure greater respect for the brand. Example? I call Oscar Wilde to the stand: 'I never travel without my notebook. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.' The well-read among you will be aware that the word notebook is incorrect here. Wilde, of course, never travels without his 'diary'. (I hope Moleskine are taking notes.) But the difference is negligible, isn't it? Perhaps we could go a little further and say Wilde never travels without his Moleskine? So much for the respect of the artists.
Call me cynical, but there's something about the Moleskine notebook that gets under my skin. They're over-priced vehicles of pretension. In fact, if they didn't look and feel so lovely I'd probably stop using mine altogether.