Monday, January 23, 2012

Tentative Scribblings in the New Year


I have a fascination for stationery, particularly notebooks. I own notebooks of many kinds – hardbound with ‘life mottos’ printed on every page, medium sized with plastic spines, little with many lines for scrawling, and some even littler, so little that they fulfill no purpose at all, except for being cute to look at. Friends have gifted me feminist notebooks that tell no one (man) in particular – ‘Make your own damn dinner!’ I also have a beautiful 2011 Rene Magritte diary, so beautiful, in fact, that I couldn’t bring myself to use it at all. If it could, it would look at me accusingly, but it can’t (at least, I don’t think it can. And I may never find out because I have banished it to the back of a shelf). I have recently acquired an India kitsch planner, and to avoid the repetition of past sins, I have scribbled into it post-haste. 

Why do I like notebooks?

Well, first of all, I like lists, and there is no fitter place for list-making than a notebook. I also like the act of putting plans in place, of plugging empty squares with things to do and people to meet. Notebooks with tiny lettering in many colors, with scratches and jottings, are a bit like photo albums – they allow you to remember how you filled your days. Inspiration is just as fleeting as memory and a notebook allows me to give stray thoughts some kind of corporeal form. In writing something down, I acknowledge it and commit to it. 

I remember once happening upon an old, abandoned notebook in a college classroom – it was full of to-dos, ‘I mets’ and ‘I dids’ written in green and blue ink, with anxieties (I don’t knows and what-ifs) relegated to the margins. Fascinating. No wonder biographers, descendants and others pore over the notebooks of famous politicians, artists and writers, looking for clues to the person behind the persona. Collectors will visit auctions and purchase them for thousands of pounds, and museums will hoard their notebooks greedily, opening up a page (or three) for public viewing when they’re feeling generous. 

Notebooks are places of personal history and meaning. A little like blogs, but better, because they go with you in your back pocket. With a picture of the Mona Lisa or cocker spaniels on the front cover, depending on the kind of person you are, or pretend not to be.       

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