One of my favorite activities is the aimless wandering through various articles, magazines, books, virtually or the old-fashioned manual way, and the subsequent transcription of fragments which inspire me in a beautiful notebook with a nice pen. The writing down of these fragments hardly guarantees that I’ll look at them later; the act itself helps mark them in my memory where they can disappear and re-surface when the right time comes. Bu, the excessive love for the two aforementioned items, the notebook and the pen, suggests the mentality of one who can only take the bitter medicine if diluted or mixed with something sweet. I can only concentrate and write if the very act of writing gives me pleasure!
The search for the ideal notebook started a long time ago, with the first attempts at what turned out to be a disingenuous diary, and still continues because a specific notebooks determines its potential content and vice versa. In a cheap notebook that I may like for whatever reason, I feel free to write any information and ideas that strike my fancy and haphazardly cover the inevitable mistakes resulting from hurry and carelessness; a small notebook forces me to write down only the fundamental lines without wasting space-time on the context; a beautiful cover inspires me from the very moment I look at it and thus urges me to write fragments which inherently deal with beauty and pleasure, and so forth.
From this vantage point, one of the few pleasures I can envision experiencing in my old age is the very act of pulling these notebooks out of the box or drawer – in all their delicious array of colors and sizes like differently-flavored candies – and reread the words that once moved and perhaps will move me still in this imagined moment belonging to the far future. I just hope I don’t end up homeless as a result of focusing on these distant pleasures while neglecting the more concrete and important details.
But, this detail is of little importance to our topic; this preamble brings us to the notebook of the moment which has a grand, imposing beauty, for lack of better words. The cover is thick and impossible to bend; there are greater chances of me or someone else being hurt in case of an accidental run-in with it. The covers are a very serious brown color, with a Japanese-style drawing on the front cover. The drawing echoes the masterful Japanese-style binding of the notebook which makes me suspect, despite my continuous denial of this sneaky suspicion, that the notebook is intended for sketching and drawing rather than my inconsistent writing style. But the truth in this case is unfortunately not that hard to find and, if we really want to get to the bottom of things, the thick and smooth pages confirm all my repressed fears. As a result of this irritating doubt rearing its ugly head, instead of writing my ideas on a new essay, I wrote this: “Sometimes, I can barely write on your pages when I imagine them being rendered much more beautiful by someone who can draw or paint. The creamy off-white of your pages could be nicely offset by a dark blue or a deep red. Unfortunately, I don’t have the necessary strength to give it away but neither the confidence to safely enjoy it without feeling slightly guilty that I’m unfairly and stubbornly keeping it. In my defense, though, I’ve tried to write carefully, with fewer mistakes than usual.”
The one helpful element of this whole story is the fact that the notebook is a gift which excludes the possibility and right of giving it away. For better or worse, it will have to be mine. And, as in many cases, the norms imposed on us by society help us make a decision when we don’t have the necessary strength to do it ourselves.
The freedom to so freely converse with objects and then write about it was granted me by a more powerful mind then mine, specifically Dostoevsky’s. In the very first few pages of White Nights, the profoundly lonely protagonist confesses he feels a deep bond with St. Petersburg and specifically, its houses, with which he regularly converses. “I have my favorites among them, indeed intimate friends,” he narrates. When one of his favorites is transformed from a rose-pink house into a canary yellow one, he suffers deeply for the house’s inconsiderate treatment and cannot “visit” it any longer because he cannot recognize it. His extremely close relationship with inanimate objects stems from his lack of relationships with people but it is not hard to understand; at times, our identification and closeness with things surpasses even some human relationships as the objects which we prefer and choose not only indicate our taste but also belong to an unshared, totally intimate part of us.
To be continued…by Kleitia Vaso