Note-taking and Myth-making

I have two notebooks with me on this journey. One is slim and black and clamps its own pages shut with an elastic belt. Attached to the spine is a woven cloth bookmark and in the back is an elegantly engineered pocket for loose slips of paper; included here is a history of the famous little black book to which I will return presently. The other – the one into which I am entering these words – is slightly bulkier, is encased in translucent plastic and comes with its own inkless pen which slots invisibly into its body.


The two items which have accompanied me to Paris are in some ways both small icons of an age: the Moleskine ruled notebook and the Handspring Visor, a handheld computer which I use to expand my brain’s rather limited memory capacity. I’m in France’s capital for a day or so, mostly waiting for trains to take me elsewhere, and this is rather fitting since Henri Matisse was apparently also a fan of the Moleskine notebook. Heaven knows what he used it for; this is of course the territory of myth-making, so one might imagine our friend Henri using the leaves of his own to sketch down a few ideas for ‘Bathers by a River’. But who knows, I’ve never seen his notebooks. It’s tempting to believe that every gesture of a great artist is a direct expression of genius; every picked nostril, every rolled-up and lazily ejected ball of snot an artistic statement of incomparable significance. Matisse probably excreted better art before breakfast than most will produce in a lifetime, but I’m more inclined to believe that he used his own Moleskine to write shopping lists with: “Buy milk, bread, cheese, tube of ultramarine blue”.

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Originally posted 3.3.04