Tracing my habit back to movies like Indiana Jones and Se7en
I’m very fond of the 1988 movie Working Girl, directed by the great Mike Nichols, in which the character, Tess is often seen writing in her notebook- and in fact, the discovery of her notebook, by her boss is an integral part in the plot.
Austin, I think you might appreciate this quote from the film:
TESS. “I read a lot of things. I mean, you never know where the big ideas could come from. You know?”
I started keeping notebooks in the 1980s at the advice of speaker Jim Rohn. But I keep big rubber bands around the book I’m reading because Indy’s dad had a band around his diary.
One of my all-time favorites is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Joel writes in a notebook throughout and it’s his notebook that helps him figure out that something is going wrong with his memory. Pages are missing... You can see some shots of that here: https://www.filmmattersmagazine.com/2018/11/26/eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind-analysis-of-direct-and-indirect-examples-of-emotional-expression-by-christian-e-gainey/
I’m starting my first notebook at 68 years old. I just figured it was time to not only take note of my life now, but also my past.
"Miss Potter" (about Beatrix Potter): She shares her sketchbook with her father and a friend.
"Finding Forrester": A young black teenager in the city writes in his notebooks all the time. Then famous but reclusive author Forrester (Sean Connery) gets hold of them and edits all the teen's writing. A relationship ensues.
"Anne of Green Gables" (the series featuring Megan Follows) doesn't have a notebook but writes on loose papers she gathers into manuscripts.
"Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song": This documentary shows images of the notebooks in which he works on that song's lyrics over five years. I was surprised about how his pages were mostly blank, just a few words on each.
Notebooks also figure in cop/FBI shows a lot. In "Numb3rs," math genius Charlie Eppes uses them to capture his inspirations for the equations he uses to help his FBI brother, Don, solve crimes.
In "NCIS," Special Agent Ellie Bishop finds dozens of notebooks in a hidden office of Special Agent Ziva David. Ziva used a separate notebook to record her thoughts and feelings about every case she worked on.
In "Closer," there's a scene in one episode where Lt Provenza opens a carton of his past notebooks to find the one about when he had met a young man who now was found murdered. Then there are the notebooks found in the lairs of serial killers--always full of disturbing musings, plans, and/or records of their victims.
In "Elementary," an excellent and imaginative Sherlock Holmes series, Detective Marcus Bell carries a small notebook everywhere. It looks like a Moleskine.
Can you tell I'm a notebook junkie? I run my life using notebooks. I have dozens of blank ones in a closet. I finally put myself on a notebook-buying moratorium last year and am working my way through the pile.
There are scenes of Mary Call writing in her diary in “Where the Lilies Bloom” that will captivate you, make you draw a breath. But it will be the essay she reads aloud in class that will stop your heart. Set in the beautiful mountains of western NC (where I grew up and now live), this film is a funny, poignant, exceptionally-written/acted/shot story of resilience as well as a love of Beauty, family, and place.
As a young girl I DEVOURED Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Of course Harriet (who I realize now, writes/sounds a bit like Fran Lebowitz) writes brutally honest perceptions about her classmates and yes, even her friends, in her notebooks. Of course one of her notebooks falls into the wrong hands 😱..... The movie with Rosie O. was quite true to the book. But, nothing beats a good (note) book 😉
Similar to the Se7en notebook (but not as perverse) is John Winchester's gorgeous monster tracking journal featured in the fifteen seasons of SuperNatural. I see Amazon has blank John WInchester journals for sale-- buffalo leather bound, stitched, beautiful aged paper, with a key--amazingly for as little at $20. How to start one's own Indiana Jones book . . .
After thinking about this, my first thought was the magic book in Practical Magic. It is chunky with old, crinkly pages and it has all kinds of "stuff" like leaves and pictures pasted inside. MAJOR envy when I was a kid. Even younger, I loved these books called Amelia's Notebook, which were printed like composition books with cartoons and stuff written inside. Which totally figures in to why I'm so obsessed with Lynda Barry now. Wow! I'm going to go think of some more.
There's the scene in The Breakfast Club where Ally Sheedy's character is sketching this scene and uses her dandruff as snow. I always joke (as a sufferer of psoriasis) that I could do that, though a few laugh lol.
Evil Dead 2 was about a notebook containing incantations that brought the evil demon to life. The main female character’s father wrote the book and in an effort to find out what happened to him, she reads aloud from his diary. The rest, as they say, is history.... cinematic history.
I think it was Liv Tyler’s notebook in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty that started my obsession. I definitely wanted to be her as a teenager.
Do you remember that gorgeous leather journal in the movie version of The English Patient? He ( the English patient) was badly burned and unconscious when found , and his nurse learned so much about the mystery of him by reading it. It told his story when he could not.
In the third season of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, scientist Mary Malone is shown making notes and sketches in her notebook... and I literally melt every time I watch these scenes!
I had the incredible opportunity to attend a lecture and workshop on commonplace books with artist Qiming Sun. He keeps his own book, some of it written in his own secret language. It was so inspiring and though I'll never create something this amazing, it brought me back to my journal after some weeks away.
My favorite notebook in a movie is that of John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) in Dances With Wolves (1990). The journal is like another character (Dunbar’s own evolving past self, in my opinion) and plays a pivotal role in the plot line.