• Maggie Levine

ArtWrite 8/16: David Korty

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

The man Dory had set her sights on marrying led her to rows of wooden letter blocks arranged on metal shelving.

“My grandfather founded a printing business in Winnetka. That’s how I became interested in typography and photo engraving techniques.”

Dory feigned interest in the different typefaces.

‘I've got hundreds more,” he said proudly. “But most are in storage.”

Hank proceeded to show her highlights from his other collections -- vintage hole punchers, wind up toys that required a key, and vintage film equipment - a camera sitting on a wooden tripod, a box with straps and buckles that contained an old reel.

“It all -- “ she swept her arm across the room. “It all kind of reminds me of that Charlie Chaplin movie with the cogs and gears.”

He coughed. “I’m afraid I don’t go to many movies.”

‘’What I mean is … You really enjoy all things mechanical.”

Dory tried to imbue the last word with some brightness and must have succeeded because Hank grinned, pleased that she understood him so well.

A red flag was waving in the back in her mind, but Dory refused to acknowledge it and smiled back. She didn’t know that one day, when she’d be bored to death as Hank went on about Benjamin Henry Day Jr., the inventor of ben day dots, when he’d show no interest in her interests, or when she’d feel lonely in his presence, that she would remember how she’d ignored the flag.

Dory also didn’t know that many years later, she’d be on the bus to Marshall Fields, and an elderly man, smelling faintly of talcum powder, would take the seat next to her.

Taking no notice of Dory, the man quickly reached into a crumpled brown paper bag and took out a spiral notebook that looked like it had once gotten soaked in the rain. The brittle pages no longer stacked neatly and reminded her of the mille feuilles in the window of the French bakery in Evanston.

As the man carefully turned a page a time, Dory noticed how each one was filled with tiny rows of print, and there was no regard for straight lines, margins, or paragraphs. She managed to make out a few words. God, thou, Lord and shepherd.

Scripture. Was he writing verses or had he memorized the entire bible? Arriving at a blank page, the man pried a pencil from the coiled binding, leaned over, and continued to write more tiny letters that became words.

Dory imagined that he’d been raised by a religious family, one so strict that he had been forbidden to even cast his eyes on words from any other text. For years, his mind had been trapped in the bindings of a single leatherbound book whose contents now played on an endless loop that he felt compelled to transcribe.Or, perhaps he’d experienced some kind of trauma; maybe he was a vet or mentally ill, and now his mind focused on the safety of familiar words to ensure that nothing painful penetrated his consciousness.

It wasn’t like Dory to engage in conjecture, but she understood this man. He didn’t write to convey ideas or express emotion. He was building a fence.

--Maggie Levine


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