Today my beautiful new journal from Jane’s shop Coterie arrived! It’s hand bound in Ireland with lush creamy lined paper inside and I feel completely unworthy to write anything in it. I don’t want to write about cancer, but it seems to be all I can think about. A book this lovely shouldn’t be about cancer.
It should be about dreams and observations, about deep philosophical or poetic insights, perhaps the beginnings of a novel. The problem is that once a journal is open and pen set to paper, the dye is cast and it will never again be anything but what has first been written in it. Tearing out the first bad page can’t even change that because you’ll always know. Right now, it’s perfect, which is intimidating.
Maybe it’s because I love and respect books so much that this beautiful thing sitting before scares me. When I read a bad or stupid book I find that I get angry. How could something so trite or useless be allowed to manifest in the perfect form of a book?* I find it so depressing to go into a mass-retailer book store like Barnes and Noble and see the latest screeds from political figures, self-help gurus, or people who have made their careers writing “sequels” of the works of Jane Austin or Charlotte Brönte. Getting a book published seem less and less like an achievement and more of a knack for finding a place in the lowest common denominator. This, of course, is being said by someone without a published book who needs one for tenure. But I’ve always seen books as precious. That’s why, along with being an atheist and a smart ass, Benjamin Franklin is my favorite “Founding Father.” He introduced public libraries. He made books accessible to everyone so knowledge was no longer just the purview of the wealthy.
My notebooks are generally humble. I have some lovely handmade books already, but they seem more like works of art to me than something I would write in. My new journal is both. It’s sitting there, crying out to be written in. I just need an opening topic.
Jane has more lovely journals still available (on sale!) at her shop http://coterie-shop.com
* I’m thinking specifically of Eat Pray Love, the only book I ever threw away out of embarrassment for ever having owned it. Seriously, I couldn’t even donate it or trade it in a paperback exchange. It was that bad.**
** though mass market paperbacks don’t bother me, being the inveterate snob that I am.