Hello to all Artful Dodge readers and enthusiasts! It’s my first year in service of this literary magazine, and I have spent much time getting to know the ropes of its many workings. This summer, I’ve spent most of my time sitting at a desk in Lilly House, perusing old issues of the Dodge and reviewing the brief literary reflections of my predecessors, which I will be posting every once in a while in the near future. Alone yet not alone, I work in a room lined with words that I understand more than I do people.
At first, even this room was out of my reach. Despite my efforts and those of the English department, I was unable to access the inner sanctum of Lilly House for a week. It was like an old fairy tale; I would come to the door every day only to be rejected by a little red light and an annoying BEEP BEEP BEEP. That meant yet another trip to campus access; either they thought I was a regular or they thought I was nuts. “It should work after graduation,” they said. “Try again tomorrow,” they said. So I tried again—BEEP—and again—BEEP—and again—BEEP—until I heard the lock beeping relentlessly even in my dreams.
Then, while reading Jeff Gundy’s essay about his trip to Prague in Artful Dodge 52/53, “Nobody’s City,” I ran into Gundy’s reflection of a Franz Kafka story, “Before the Law,” where a man waits at the entrance to a court all his life, being told that he’s not allowed in, and right before he dies, the gate “made only for [him]” is shut. On his visit to Prague, Gundy sympathized with this man as Gundy himself tried to make some kind of stronger contact with Kafka. Gundy was even locked out of the Kafka Museum, just as I was locked out of Lilly House. In a way, both of us were waiting to get into our own courts, wondering if we were going to be admitted or if the door would only “creak open as [we] walked away.”
I made it into this room, but many doors still stay closed, no matter how hard I knock. Every time I feel like I know all I need to know about working for the Dodge, a new puzzle arises. As for Gundy, he never made it into the museum, but he and his wife toured other parts of the city, taking in the history and beauty of the place. He was never able to break down all the doors surrounding Kafka either, though much of the trip he spent wondering what Kafka might have thought as he walked down the streets of Prague. These thoughts were closed to Gundy, but there are some doors we have no need of opening in order to see what’s beyond them. It is the simple desire for knowledge that is most important; the very puzzles we search to solve are the bread on which we live. I know very little about Kafka, but this story opened my mind just a crack. Reading presents many doors and opens others, which must be why I enjoy it so much. When you pick up a book (or a literary magazine), who knows what rooms might await inside?
—Holly Engel, Assistant Editor
Interested in reading “Nobody’s City”? Check it out here!