Some days we are lucky, and the mail carrier does not leave behind any bills. Other days we are VERY lucky and he or she leaves behind a fat envelope containing a sample from Karen at Exaclair.
A few weeks ago one of those envelopes arrived, holding a Habana notebook. I’ve been a bit slow to write about it. It is almost too nice to use, leaving me with a puzzle: What should I write in it? Daily notes? Class notes? To Do lists? Article drafts? Sketches for never-to-be woodworking projects? Probably not. All these are ephemeral, or, at least disposable. 80 sheets of 90 gram Clairefontaine paper is simply too good for Take out the trash, Fix the kitchen sink, and The
Grate Great aMAmerican Novl Novel. Such transitory and inconsequential expressions do not belong in a notebook so well made that it, and its contents, may be around long after I’ve shuffled off my mortal coil. Besides, do I want the great-grandkids to know that I did manage to fix the sink?
Then I had an AHA! Moment. It would be a tremendous lab notebook. It is durable. At 6×9 and 80 sheets, it offers plenty of room to write. More, the pages handle fountain pen ink and even heavy pencil with aplomb. This image shows a few lines written with J. Herbin ink and my big Parker, Duofold, which lays down ink like a paint brush. Provided I did my part, the Habana would provide me with a permanent record, a record for the ages. I pictured myself handing it to my patent attorney, to document my claims to my world-shaking discovery, clutching it as I accepted, with suitable humility, my Nobel Prize. I imagined my descendants, many generations removed from now, gazing at it in admiration, in its place of honor beside the Declaration of Independence. But then Reality intruded, reminding me that I haven’t had a science course since high school, where I shared a lab bench with Francis Bacon. My last experiment (an attempt to brew a new ink) produced only bad smells and that I can hardly change a light bulb without running a very risk of electrocuting myself.
Only somewhat daunted, I returned to the conundrum: What does one write in a notebook that cries out to be written in, but which also demands quality content?
Perhaps, as an inanimate object, the Habana cannot cry out to be written in, but it is certainly a book I want to write in. It feels luxurious, without being decadent. The covers are a treat to hold, while pens and pencils simply glide across the pages. It is a book that I can write in at my desk, in the library, or when parked under a favorite tree. Opening and closing it will not wear it out. It will not fall apart, shed its cover or pages after going in and out of my œwriting bag a few hundred times. It will not turn into a mass of pulp if it (and I) are caught in the rain (or I spill something onto it).
I do have a niece due to be born in a few weeks. The Habana would certainly provide a fine record of her first year, but I tend to be picture happy, and the sewn binding is not designed to accommodate such bulk.
In the end, my solution was unremarkable, for me. I will use it to draft my latest yet-to-be-published novel. That is perhaps fitting, as the story revolves around a world-shaking discovery by a great scientist, long overlooked in his stack of fine black notebooks.
Others may find other uses. I believe Hemingway wrote about the terror of the blank page, discussing a writer’s reaction to a clean page and the challenge of filling it with interesting text. He might not have had that difficulty with a Habana, which urges one to Do your best.
What more can we ask from a notebook?