There's something so clichéd about the American writer in Paris scribbling in a Moleskine journal on a café terrace. But I buy them anyway. I like the little elastic band that keeps the notebook closed. I like the paper, which is smooth and heavy enough that I can write on both sides without my runny fountain pen bleeding through. I'm especially fond of the pocket-sized Reporter Notebook version (there are many now) that opens vertically like a journalist's pad, with simple horizontal lines. I hate writing on graph paper, blank pages, and those multi-lined notebooks that school kids use to practice their handwriting. I can't remember the last time I actually sat in a café writing in my notebooks. I usually only go to cafés to meet with friends, and there are usually more interesting things to watch anyway. The Metro, though, is another story. Nothing interesting to look at, nothing at all (aside from the occasional bad or silly billboard advertisement). So it's the perfect time to spend scribbling away. Not that I'm working on that novel. I tend to make notes to myself, draft articles, write down things I saw while walking around town to report back here, or just write about what's bothering me (a sort of therapy journaling, I suppose).
In any case, I now have a huge box of used Moleskine's (and other non-branded versions...Moleskine as a brand didn't actually exist until 1995) in my storage cellar. The very first one was in fact purchased in 1995 just before I left for my Christmas/New Year break in Budapest. I used it as a travel journal. I used a purple pen that fit in a loop on the notebook. The elastic was green. I made a lot of ugly skeches in it after I slipped on the ice and broke my camera. Today you can actually buy Moleskine city notebooks, a sort of mix of a travel guide and a notebook. The Paris guide has maps of the city and Metro, tabs for making sections where you note your essential addresses, etc. I think they're a great idea. I probably won't use them myself; habits are sometimes hard to break. But you might like them. Their website has an interesting multilingual blog covering several European cities. The Paris blog features an interview with moi today. Enjoy, have a surf around. Funnily enough, they don't actually push their notebooks here at all. For that you'll have to go to www.moleskine.com (where you'll also find info about how to participate in their creative challenge to benefit lettera27, a nonprofit literacy organization dedicated to support the right to education and access to knowledge around the world.