Thursday, January 27, 2005


Had a meeting today about a play I'm writing, or co-writing, for an actors' workshop. The discussion, with the actors and with the director/co-writer, went well. Momentum has been slowly picking up on this project; it's as though I can see the development of the play now curving ahead of me through time, reaching upward to the point of final performance. But far to go yet before reaching that point. The remarkable thing to note, then, is this: there is a power in collective enthusiasm that can make an imagined thing real.

Also today I finished a book of essays by G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton is a truly individual writer, great in his narrow and eccentric way. He overuses a certain rhetorical trick which may be paraphrased thusly: 'this thing which all the world knows to be true is in fact not true; rather, the very opposite is in fact true.' But if he overuses this trope, it's because it's a good one. More than good; a very useful habit of thought to get into. Everybody ought to overturn the world from time to time, and see if it works as well standing on its head. What you learn from this is that the world is a stranger and wilder place than you think, because what you think you know turns out to be merely what you have learned. And what you have learned, in the end, is just what you have been told.

So a useful intellectual exercise, reading Chesterton. Sometimes also a useful moral exercise, a useful imaginative exercise, even a useful emotional exercise as one reaches into the outrage and purpose that drove him at his best. But Chesterton, I suspect, would hate to be thought of as useful. So we'll say that he's worth reading, that you get certain things out of him which you don't get from other writers, and that with him as with most writers it is better to read him with eyes wide open. He is puzzling, at times, though never enigmatic; he can be paradoxical; occasionally he is flat-out wrong. But he is typically entertaining, and consistently unpredictable — for both good and ill.

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