That’s So Touching; or, On the Power of Words

I saw The Post recently and was struck by the tactile nature of old typesetting. At one point the typesetter held the news in his hand, cupped it as each letter jabbed the air with its shape.

It made me yearn to run my fingers over the alphabet of my poems, to feel the jagged space between vowel and consonant, the smoothness of silence. I’ve met bookmakers who use letterpress and have wondered at their oddness and passion. I think I get it now.

I remember as a child liking to feel the raised letters on a book cover, the dimply gold of a Newbery medallion. My fingers rest now on the slippery cradles of my computer keyboard, only a tiny ridge under the F and J to let me know I’m in the proper typing position. Usually when I write, one hand is wrapped around a Bic, its hexagonal planes, but of the letters I feel nothing. Not even the dampness of fresh ink. The letter and the page become one, featureless. It’s my eye only that gives it substance.

There was something earnest about the old method, so exacting, time consuming. You had to really want to print fake news to make the effort of gathering the flock of letters, ordering them, pressing them to ink and page.

It was typical Spielberg. I mean, I cried.

In typical Hollywood fashion, it was a torqueing and beautifying, a slithery kind of history. I’m not quibbling this time.

In the end, people in the theater spontaneously clapped. There was no one there to clap for — no director, no actor in attendance, just the handful of us citizens, needing something to believe in, needing something true to feel beneath our fingers.

2 thoughts on “That’s So Touching; or, On the Power of Words

  1. Quite long ago–when I was quite young–I was a proofreader in a type shop. It was the perfect job for me, but technology changed rapidly; I was working during the rise of photo-type and digitized type, and the lino machines were fast fading away…one shop at which I worked even had handset magazines. I learned how to proofread upside-down and backwards on the composition frame when the slugs were set, which was the best way to notice whether incorrect font or sizing errors had gotten into the line. I’d proofread again on newsprint when the stone was inked and the page printed. It was, indeed, a very tactile reading experience.

    I’ll have to see “The Post!!” It will no doubt bring back a host of memories.

    Liked by 1 person

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