Nightstand III

Another stack of books.
Another stack of books.

David Hackett Fischer. Albion’s seed: four British folkways in America. A brilliant work of scholarship. Fascinating, persuasive, informative. I borrowed it from the library, but found it so valuable in both overview and detail that I had to have my own copy.

Michael Swanwick. Griffin’s egg. Haven’t started on this one yet. Part of my program to read all of his books.

Michael Swanwick. Cigar box Faust and other miniatures. I like the term miniature so much better than flash. I’m going to use it from now on.

John Dickson Carr. The case of the constant suicides. Doesn’t everybody love a good clockwork plot?

John Dickson Carr. Til death do us part. See above.

Dan Cruickshank. The secret history of Georgian London: how the wages of sin shaped the capital. That is to say, how sex (or more exactly the sex trade) influenced Georgian culture and in particular architecture.

Mark Twain. The adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Rereading. “Play! Invent the world! Invent reality!”

A. Roger Ekirch. At day’s close: night in times past. We who live in the present (that is, everybody) assume that the past was in most ways mostly similar to the present. It wasn’t. Not even sleeping was the same.

Hugh Ross Williamson. Who was the man in the iron mask? and other historical mysteries. Little nooks and crannies and oddments, the sort of thing that serious historians prefer to ignore.

Iain McCalman. The last alchemist: Count Cagliostro, master of magic in the age of reason. A charismatic fraud, a type that is ever the same, especially now. Only the names have changed.

Of notebooks

I always carry a little notebook in a pocket, whenever I leave the house, and a fountain pen clipped to my sweater’s v-neck. (When I’m home, the little notebook is poised on the corner of the desk.)

I tried making voice memos on my phone, but the user interface is awkward, I was always tapping the wrong button. And besides, I had to transcribe the notes once I got back home, so why not just write them down in the first place? And there’s all the background noise in the recording — sometimes I couldn’t make out what I’d said.

I tried Evernote and Simplenote and something else, I forget, on the phone, but plinking out text on the tiny screen keyboard was tedious and I frequently had forgotten the end of the sentence I had in mind by the time I got to it. Worse than useless! And besides, I eventually abandoned the phone as too expensive — nearly $100 a month after all those fees and taxes and surcharges and whatnot get piled on top of what seemed, a first blush, a reasonable rate. That’s a thousand dollars a year! And it’s not as if I ever use the phone to make calls.

So the issue was settled when I stopped carrying a phone. Paper it was. But this opened a whole new realm of choices.

It needed to be thin — no bulk. It needed to be small — to fit in any pocket. Or I would end up not carrying it.

I started with a little Moleskine bound in kraft paper. The price was right. (Mais le vrai Moleskine n’existe plus.) I liked the sewn binding, and the perforations on the last few pages, and the little pocket at the back. It worked well with pencil, but with a fountain pen, there was too much bleed-through, the paper was not opaque enough. And I’d grown to dislike carrying pencils. They either poke you in the fingertips, or through the bottom seam of your pocket, and in either case quickly grow too dull to write crisply, unless you carry a sharpener with you, and, for me, that was just one thing too many. I don’t like ballpoints of any kind, they write too smoothly, I need a bit of drag against the paper to write legibly — probably because I’m used to pencils. A fountain pen (a cheap one) feels just right. But then there was the bleed-through issue. I couldn’t read my own notes!

I’ve turned to Field Notes notebooks. They use staples and I hate that, but the paper is better than Moleskine’s. And I have to confess that I love their Colors series. (I’ve subscribed!) Four times a year they ship you a bunch of little notebooks with some eccentric, gimmicky design conceit. Those who have read more than one of these miniature essays may have gathered that I adore eccentricity, gimmicks, and conceits. Oh yes. Let us not be ashamed. Wood covers! Constellations! Beer! Gilt! And so on.

Still, I remain open to conversion.

I’ve yet to find the perfect pocket notebook. Perhaps it does not exist. But I do like my little Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen with Namiki cartridges (it comes with a converter for using bottled ink, but I’ve been afraid of leaks). It’s the perfect size for my hand and has just the right amount of friction against the page. It’s a delight, and one must never frown at delightful things.