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Buy a Moleskine notebook, build an empire

ArtArts and CultureErnest HemingwayThe LEGO Group

The Moleskine notebook is a ubiquitous tool of the trade in writing and art circles. I’ve purchased a few dozen over the last few years. From the little tiny ones that are not much bigger than a credit card and fit in my shirt pocket; to the big ones that are about the size of an old LP cover. When my sister asked me to officiate at her wedding, I used the biggest notebook in the Moleskine family to hold the script I wrote for the ceremony.

Moleskine (it’s pronounced moe-lay-SKEE-nay, or mole-skin, or mole-skeen, depending on who you ask) has brought a modicum of order to my disorderly creative life. But little did I know that with each of my purchases — and they ain’t cheap, these notebooks — I was helping build a capitalist empire.

The Italian-based Moleskine company is set to go public this month, and is seeking an initial public offering of $455 million. That’s a lot of notebooks. And it led the Daily Beast to ask “Does this mean hipsters' favorite notebooks will now be totally uncool?”

Perhaps not yet, but Moleskine seems to be trying really hard to become unhip. True, the notebooks are durable, they have the backing of the late Ernest Hemingway and Vincent van Gogh, and they’re even “vegan.” (They’re made from cardboard and oilcloth and not from dead moles.) But anything that can be done well can very easily be overdone, and Moleskine is getting treacherously close to kitsch as it offers a series of “limited edition” notebooks with “Lego,” “Peanuts” and “Star Wars” themes.

Still, one expects the Moleskine cult will endure for quite a while. I’m not white but I’m not surprised to find it listed on the “Stuff White People Like” website, which explains: “Much like virtually everything else that white people like, these notebooks are considerably more expensive yet provide no additional functionality over regular notebooks that cost a dollar.”

A quick perusal at one Moleskine fan site, however, reveals that love of the notebooks is pretty universal. The site Moleskinerie.com currently features a video in which the Brazilan artist Maykel Nunes reveals an entire gallery of drawings tucked inside one set of Moleskine covers.

“It’s nice to see a lot of people saying they bought a Moleskine notebook and started drawing after knowing my work,” Nunes writes. “That is priceless.”

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hector.tobar@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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ArtArts and CultureThe LEGO GroupErnest Hemingway
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