Isn’t A Notebook Just A Notebook?


A few days ago a client gave me a Moleskine Cashier notebook as a gift. I would like to think that it was out of appreciation for the outstanding work I had done. More likely, though, it is because the client was simply disgusted seeing me lugging around a Moleskine copy instead of the real thing; if you’re going to do something, then might as well do it right. I don’t think I have any arguments there.

However, despite its iconic stature, I am not a big fan of the Moleskine. This is not to say I hate these notebooks: I marvel at their style and sophistication. That said, I just have one misgiving (but a big one at that) about these notebooks: they are not fountain pen friendly.


I discovered this lamentable property of the Moleskine when I bought my first Moleskine (the Notebook model, not the Cashier) some time ago. When I began writing (with a fountain pen, naturally), I noticed that the paper suffered from a phenomenon called ‘bleed-through’: ink partially seeping through the page and appearing on the reverse-side of the paper. No matter what I did, the problem just refused to go away. If I was going to accept bleed-through, I might as well use a regular RM2.00 exercise book, the kind you find in any sundry shop, and be done with it.

Why then would I want to shell out RM90.00 for a fancy notebook and still suffer bleed-through? Because Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin were loyal users of these notebooks? This is hardly justification enough for me. The other alternative is of course to start using ball-points or pencils so that there is was chance of bleed-through happening on my Moleskine.

What! And abandon my beautiful fountain pens? Not a chance!

Then I found a great little product (from the Singaporean company Grand Luxe) called Monologue. The Monologue had all the features of the Moleskine, and it even looked like one. But the best bit was that its 90 gsm, acid-free paper was absolutely bleed-through proof. I felt like my fountain pens and I had finally found a home. Overnight I had become a rabid advocate of the Monologue; notwithstanding its Singaporean origin, and the company’s refusal to grant me a dealership.

But back to the Moleskine Cashier that was given to me. I was pleasantly surprised when the thing showed no sign of bleed-through no matter what pen-and-ink combo I threw at it. It stood like a conquering hero even under the onslaught of my wettest nib and wettest ink (Montblanc 146 / Diamine Emerald). And it nurtured liked a gentle giant when I used my driest nib and driest ink combo (Sailor 1911M / Pelikan 4001 Blue Black). I felt like a punk rocker that had just discovered a fresh area of skin to be pierced, or a hip-hop wannabe that had just discovered a way to wear his pants lower than his danglies.

I was so enamoured with the Moleskine Cashier that it now serves as the notebook where I jot down ideas for my writing- and blogging-prompts. This means that it will be very close to me at all times, and will continue to be that way for a very long time.

But now, as a card-carrying Moleskine-user, do I feel as if I’ve joined the ranks of Picasso, Hemingway and Chatwin? You bet I do! But does using a Moleskine make me write like Hemingway, for instance? You bet it DOESN”T!

However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that the Moleskine Cashier is a superlative notebook. Though not as stylish as the Notebook model, the Cashier is bleed-through proof. To fountain pen users out there, this is perhaps the most important feature a notebook should have. And the Cashier has this in spades!

Thank you, Client…


I put my reading glasses on, did some research and found out that this model is named Cahier (pronounced kah-yay). Please excuse an old man his sloppines.

54 thoughts on “Isn’t A Notebook Just A Notebook?

  1. Ok, don’t snigger.. I know I am so ketinggalan zaman .. I had never heard of ‘moleskine’ until elviza mentioned it in one of her blogs months ago. What is this ‘moleskine’ thing actually? My notebooks (the buku kind) are just that.. notebooks.. from 555 type to the comb-binding type to the entire range in the market. How come I was blissfully ignorant of the existence of this ‘moleskine’ thingy? Where did it spring from, and when?

    • Puteri Kamaliah

      Moleskine makes notebooks, and used to be a French company. It went bust and was revived by some Italian geezer. Moleskine’s claim to fame is that they were used by the likes of Picasso, Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin.

      These notebooks are leather-bound, have stitched spines, come with an internal pocket in the back cover and feature an elastic strap to hold the covers together. They also use acid-free paper so that the writing does not fade over the years.

      The description does not do the product justice. You’ve got to hold in in your hands, write in it, and reach for it for when you want to capture that special thought to be able to appreciate the mystique of the Moleskine.

      My advice: do NOT get yourself one of these! You may never want to write on anything else after that….

  2. MT, when I read Elviza’s love affair with her Moleskine, i thought hard about buying it. Everytime I passed the counter at the bookshop, I’d stop, carressed it for a moment or two and walked away. I couldnt part with £10.00 for just a Notebook. And my other half has this rule, if you cant pronounce the name, dont buy it. So you can see I dont own many branded goods.
    Then I thought if buying a Moleskine can make me write like any of you and perhaps Hemmingway – I’d sacrifice £10 and suffer my cats for two days without Whiskers. And I bought one – with my daughter behind me saying, More-les, kiner…mama!!!!
    And that was four months ago. Like the Aladdin lamp, i kept carressing it everynight – nothing remotely Hemmingway flowed through to the page. I only managed my name and address.

    And then later I discovered most of my children carry Moleskine like they are just buku tiga lima.
    I should have listened to my husband. I just paid for the name. How silly. Do I am backt o writing in my 1.50 notebook from Paperchase.

    • Kak Teh

      I know what you mean. I was reluctant to write on the ruddy thing at first thinking its going to cost me something like 25 sen a line (or close to that). But once I overcame the initial hurdle, things just floated by.

      Does it help me write like Hemingway? Not in the least. Does it make me feel as if I can write like Hemingway? Absolutely! 🙂

    • Kak Teh

      I’d write on a buku tiga-lima, too, if it were big enough and the page won’t bleed if I use a fountain pen.

  3. hi ya,

    i regularly hop to your blog; enjoy your writing.

    i think it’s called “cahier” and not “cashier”…

    • Anon

      You know, you could be right!

      This is what happens when old folk like me, with failing eyesight, choose not to wear our reading glasses… 🙂

  4. U sure hv great taste…

    and seem to really hv that desire to understand the intricacies of something u love..but wat i admire most is the courage to seek wat u most needed and to change regardless of the legacies
    Thats the measure of a true gentleman,

  5. I’m not an excellent kinda writer so I don’t really need this kind of thing. But I used it for a couple of times before with that buku latihan sekolah.

    • Pok Deng

      Actually, like you, I’d use the buku latihan sekolah, too. But I can’t take it when the pages bleed if I use the fountain pen.

  6. Mat

    You really got class, mon a mi.

    Moleskine Cashier, Montblanc writer, non-bleeding paper, non-consummating black lingerie her. Envious you.

    Me? I don’t carry anything. Pretending a non-existent secretary or valet carries those things.

    Aaah … how nice, pretending, imagining, day-dreaming. It’s the cheapest form of entertainment. It doesn’t cost anything. But gets me nothing.

    We must exchange places sometimes, old chap.


    • Dry Humour

      On the contrary I don’t think you want to trade places with me dear sir.

      My life is lacking in so many areas that others usually take for granted. If only you knew…

  7. OK, embarrassing confession here (Kak Teh, were we in the same league?) …. I had thought, until today, that it is pronounced mole-skin or mole-skine. A quick check in the internet later, ah-ha!it is mol-a-skeen-a, whad’ya know?

    But cheapskate that I am, I don’t think I’d spend so much on a notebook.

    • QOTH

      You are no cheapskate – you just don’t subscribe to the idea that a notebook should cost that much.

      And sorry to learn of the burglary; we missed you at the reunion.

  8. Mamak Ku,

    Re:on subject matter ,hmm…….

    Seorang penulis,pelukis,pemain film ataupun seorang pemusic saperti Kassim Selamat akan sentiasa miskin tetapi kaya dengan perbendaharaan kata-kata yang indah supaya umum dapat menikmati hasil kerjanya yang halus lagi bermakna tanpa mengira diatas kertas atau pena apa yang digunakan.
    Umum ketahui Penulis-Penyair Charil Anwar dengan sajak ‘Aku’ nya mengegarkan seluroh angkat 45′ dinusantara mati dalam kedaifan.
    Pelukis Van Gough dengan ‘SunfLower’nya yang dilelong berjuta-juta pound,namun dia mati dalam travenne bersama-sama dengan gundiknya dan jugak dalam kedaifan.
    Seniman Agung kita Almarhum Tan Sri P.Ramlee yang diwar-warkan post-humous award ‘Tun’,mati dalam kedaifan.
    Tetapi,hasil titik peloh,daya kreativitas,imaginasi serta daya tarikan mereka
    membuat kita lemah long-lai dan membisik kepada naluri kita sendiri,
    ‘Mengapa Aku tidak dianugerah sebaik apa yang dianugerahkan oleh pencipta kepada kamu’
    Maha zat Kezaki-an Allah,kau dianugerahi zatnya.
    Kau tidak perlu kematerialan untuk menyuburkan kamu.Ia akan datang dengan sendirinya.
    Amin.Ya Allah lempahi lah rahmat dan bukakan lah pintu rezeki untuk dia dan cukupkanlah segara keperluan keluarganya.Nescaya dia seorang yang akan menjiwai zatmu Ya Allah.


    • Pak Tuo

      Maybe this will help put things in perspective. We can make good music on a China-made Kapok guitar. In fact, most of us learned to play on this venerable guitar. There is nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all. But if we could, we would like to play an Ovation Adamas, a CF Martin or even a Washburn Monterey. When talking about electrics, we may covet a Fender Telecaster or even a Yamaha SG2000 (remember this guitar?). There is nothing wrong with this either.

      The point is, the equipment doesn’t make us better musicians, artist, writer, whatever. Lousy equipment doesn’t necessarily make us better; better equipment doesn’t necessarily make us worse. In the end, it is the person that matters. But being humans, most of the time we have our preferences.

      Labouring the point further, a Proton will takes us efficiently from point A to point B. But does this mean its a sin to enjoy let’s say a Honda Accord or even a Rover whenever we get the chance?

      Oh, Van Gogh was a noted user of Moleskine – even though he never managed to sell a painting in his entire lifetime.

  9. Mamak,
    Did you enroll your brain to be donated to the National Organ Donation Org ,when you padam nanti?
    Will be at your side anytime,anywhere and everwhere.hehehe……teh tarik?

  10. Mat

    Sssshh … don’t tell people anything deficient.

    Your stock is building up in a crescendo. Enjoy it.

    Be a politician sometimes.


  11. dear mat b,

    as a bean counter i was more used to 7 or 14 column pads instead of lined notebooks. even then, we used pencils instead of ink due to frequent erasures.

    then came the word processors, computer spreadsheets and suddenly the cross golden pen set was hardly used. as i rose up the corporate ladder the pen was used only to sign letters (originals only, copies are stamped “original signed by..” by the girl friday), agreements and cheques.

    in retirement, i found that my once beautiful penmanship has been reduced to ugly scrawls that make doctors prescriptions look like the american declaration of independence.

    i’ve always admired you lawyers and other pen pushers (no insult intended) with your montblac shiny on your shirt pockets. sigh.

    as i go clickety-clack on my keyboard, i suddenly remembered my old form 1 english teacher, a mr. partridge (who claimed to be a direct descendant of lewis caroll) and his beautiful handwriting even on the blackboard and no matter how fast he wrote.

    sorry mat. so it’s actually your fault for opening up my memories.


    • Kassim Ahmad

      No apology required, sir. I thoroughly enjoyed your brief tour of the past. Thanks for sharing.

      BTW, Montblancs are not my weapons of choice; they’re really jewellery masquerading as pens. But when we talk about the Pelikan M600, the Lamy 2000 or the Pilot Vanishing Point, we are in the realm of pen-dom!

      Drool! Drool!

  12. Pak tuo,

    Some maybe happy with the teeny squiggles of a ballpoint but the true connoisseur needs the broad,clean,stiff and confident strokes…and u can’t have that on any bleeding surfaces..just an impossibility and incredibly messy.
    Pak Tuo..
    The sheer exhilaration of a true power ; it is not the horsepower cos wat makes it purr is the torque..
    And if Abang Kai is a horse,I would expect him to be training at Alan Jukes in Gainsborough,,

  13. Uncle !!

    Why you put name Bangkai?
    My mama tell me,if we take wuduk,and touch bangkai the wuduk become wrong,Same like ‘kentut’.
    Change namelah uncle.You write nice.
    I like your story but some I cannot read because ‘my wee ..still small’

    Bye Uncle.


  14. Thats remarkable…
    Remember too well that even in the old days even though ur would be in pretty starched up DON white shirt and pagoda singlets/undies but your pen is always the best.
    Old habits die hard..

    good memories dear..always

    • sarahc

      Yes! The standard fountain pen in those days (for those of us who were not anak Datuk) was the venerable Hero 329 or the Pilot 78G.

      Those, combined with the Don shirt, brought back some fond memories.

    • Andrea Whatever

      Poor dear! But there are quick drying inks that address this problem: a few lines from the Noodler’s range, for example. But they hare quite hard to find here in Malaysia.

  15. Salam Mat,
    Not my cup of tea, Moleskine that is. It’d be interesting to see whether this luxury brand would survive the recession… some up-market brands including Sony, find it hard to weather it already… hmmm…

    • Dhahran Sea

      Moleskine did go bust once. Maybe history will repeat itself?

      As long as Grandluxe keeps producing the Monologue range of notebooks, I’m not too worried about Moleskine’s future

  16. mat,

    i was going to say something unflattering abt self-indulgence…

    but sarahc’s intriguing revelation … Remember too well that even in the old days even though ur would be in pretty starched up DON white shirt and pagoda singlets/undies but your pen is always the best. good memories dear..always

    … stopped me mid-sentence.

    no, not because sarah was privy to your undies.

    but because your self-indulgence actually stopped short at your privies.

    pagoda undies, eh! ;D

  17. Hi Matt,

    The closest I came to carrying a notebook was the good old ‘filofax’ in the early 80’s yuppies era; got too complicated lah.

    Now I just rely on my 96pages 7mm ruled #561 Spirax Note Book by Esselte Corporation.

    Sounds good ya? It’s a glorified buku 555 only lah…hehe… Post-it & paper serviettes are still the most handy & best!


    • atriumbubbler

      Yes, I am on about the Moleskine. And I hardly think that the blogger mentioned would actually write about lingerie or prophylactics.

  18. just hv a peep at this moleskin youtube…its gorgeous ..i just wanna be there too.
    I am on my way to get me a moleskin and then on to Penang now.

    Thanks MB..

  19. Filofax! Yessss! That was the darn word I was trying to recall… Muchos gracias Tommy!

    Mat B

    During my PR ‘heydays’, it was Filofax or bust. Bergaye sakan teman dengan Filofax. Warna cover buku matching kaler baju pak! Now I have neither Filofax nor 555 book. Writing pad ada ler..

    • Puteri Kamaliah

      The Filofax was really something, eh? There we some me-too products like Arrive and Kenys. But it had to be a Filofax, didn’t it.

      However if the younger set sees us lugging around a Filofax it would almost like them seeing someone wearing wearing bell-bottoms in public.

      But what do they know, right?

  20. Same here. Couldn’t bring myself to buy the real thing at Kino and settled for a Monologue. Hmm, at least I feel like I’ve upgraded from those spiral notebooks. Yes, it makes me feel AS IF I can write better..

    • aud

      Yeah, forking out the retail price for a Moleskine feels almost obscene to me, too. But the Monologue does the job equally well, too: just doesn’t have the Moleskine mystique.

      But I can do without mystique…

  21. encik bogard,

    berapa ekor mole yang mati dalam pembikinan satu unit moleskin ini?

    anyway, if i need and want to write, any piece of paper will do. even belakang teket bas pun boleh tulis my magnum opus (as expected, i lost my magnum opus written on the back of teket bas sri jaya).

    • the-plague

      No animals were harmed in the making of this notebook (I think).

      I tried to tulis my novel belakang tikit bas juga. However, short story pun tak muat. I guess sometimes you do need size… 😉

  22. Ya la…a notebook is just a notebook. The one you gave me masa kat IKEA tu, I not yet use. To me yang penting the notes…therefore any material will do… Tiket bas pun boleh…resit TESCO pun boleh he he he…


    I suppose we can also use guni tepung to make our baju kurung; after all the important thing is to tutup aurat. But why don’t I see many women doing this? Why do they insist on using finer fabrics? (Pssst! I think it has something to do with certain qualities inherent in the finer fabrics)


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