Taking Things Seriously (13)

By: Paul Maliszewski
December 26, 2019

One in a series of posts reprinting true stories about significant objects from the 2007 collection Taking Things Seriously (Princeton Architectural Press), edited by Joshua Glenn and designed by Carol Hayes. For contemporary reviews of the book, click here; for info on Josh Glenn and Rob Walker’s ongoing Project:Object operation, click here.


Whatever needed doing at the mortgage company, I did, particularly if nobody else wanted to be bothered. Since I didn’t have my own desk, I floated around, occupying whatever space was handy and empty. This was in the early 1990s, in Pittsburgh. The mad dash to refinance home mortgages had begun to cool. Whole suites were deserted, reminders of a time in the not-too-distant past when the company enjoyed more bullish days.

I searched every desk I sat at not only to fill the periodic lulls but also out of curiosity, to find pieces of other lives, workers before my time. One slow day, while pawing through an abandoned desk, I discovered this rubber stamp and knew immediately that I had to make it mine. Certified True Copy. How strange, I thought, and funny. How could a copy of something ever really be true?

My discovery was luck made manifest. I had recently started writing a story about Copy Copy, a fictional copy shop where a clerk named Tom Again worked the nightshift. Tom dreamed up grand-sounding theories like the Law of Copies, which holds, not originally, that life is but one long and steady decline. An original loses something when copied, Tom posited. A copy of that copy loses a bit more. The law of copies, Tom argued, was the dark twin of the myth of progress. He had ideas, as I had ideas then. And he was stuck, much as I was stuck. I took the stamp, thinking, I’ll incorporate this into my work. I’ll use it. In a moment of misplaced optimism, I even thought it might help me finish the story, like some magic talisman.

It didn’t work. At least not as I hoped. I quit the job, left the story unfinished, and went on to other things.

TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY: William Drenttel on ARTICHOKE | Dmitri Siegel on BIG BOTTOM EXCITER | Greg Klee on SANTA | Carol Hayes on “THINGS” SAMPLER | Tom Frank on WWI HELMET | Beth Daniels on PENCIL SHARPENER | Chika Azuma on GRAMMYFOAM | John Keen on COMPUTER CABINET | Josh Glenn on BAUDELAIRE DEATH MASK | Luc Sante on POSTER FRAGMENTS | Becky Neiman on CHEESE BOX | Rosamond Purcell on BREAD | Paul Maliszewski on RUBBER STAMP.


SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.