It’s easy to tell a really pretentious aspiring writer from an averagely pretentious one. You will find each of them crouched over a double espresso for three hours in a café near you with notebook in hand, their eyebrows contracting intently as a new idea is heaved into the world. The difference, however, is that the really pretentious aspiring writer will be writing in a Moleskine.

I first discovered the “notebook of Matisse, Van Gogh and Hemingway” during a spell living in Paris (another essential prerequisite for the posing writer). It looked familiar (I later discovered that Indiana Jones used them too) and its sleek, breviary-like form, complete with elastic strip and cloth bookmark, appealed to my sense of writerly gravitas.

After initial consternation regarding the price (they are three times more expensive than most notebooks) I paid up to start a habit. I could plead the superior quality of the paper, the tactile pleasure of putting ink (it has to be Uniball) to blank paper, or just confess to the fact that Moleskines look good and make their owners look good. They also fit in most standard pockets (an unusual achievement for anything that comes with the adjectival prefix “pocket”).

Bruce Chatwin was the most famous Moleskine fan of modern times (Indy not being a real person, he doesn’t count) yet he died thinking that they were a thing of the past, having been discontinued in 1986. The Italian stationers Modo & Modo have since revived the Moleskine, coming to the rescue of nascent literary egos the whole world round. By now as indispensable a part of literary pretension as living in a garret or drinking Pernod, long may it reign as the undisputed king of compact stationery for half-baked ideas. Coffee anyone?

Originally published by The Guardian.

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