G.K. Chesterton told a story once about a young lady that he knew. She had lived in mainland England her whole life and had never been to the coast, never been to the sea. Chesterton felt the need to rectify this and escorted her out there himself. They came to some random beach on the coastline and watched the dark green waves cresting and falling across white sand. Chesterton turned to the young lady and asked her what she thought. After a moment's hesitation, she said, "It looks like cauliflower." Chesterton would later say that he had never heard a more poetic statement.
Chesterton's assessment of that statement is why I love him. I don't always understand him, but that's not the point. It is his way with words that astounds me, how he understands the way that they work. I remember perusing some of his books online, and I got to his Father Brown collection. I only read the first line of the first story: "Between the silver ribbon of the morning and the green glittering ribbon of the sea, a boat touched Harwich and let lose a swarm of folk like flies." I stopped and immediately bought the book. I was in the middle of my college days back then, and I had no idea what to do with myself. All I knew was that I wanted that book and all the words it contained.
He was right. At that very moment, I knew he was right. His statement seemed absurd, yet it was completely true. As he would point out to me, every single picture that I showed them had been accompanied by a story. Every doodle was a scene, every piece a part of some whole. I was a writer. It was instinctual to me. I wanted to be one. I had always wanted to be one. I just didn't realize it until a graphic artist told me so.
The other professor was a creative writing instructor. His name was John Walker, and he was paralyzed from the collarbone down. He spoke with a soft, soothing voice and always waved a limp hand in the air whenever he was making a point. His class was the only one that I purposefully took twice, and I often frequented his office. On one such visit, he asked me to pull a book off of his shelf and hand it to him. It was Hey Jack!, a book by Barry Hannah, his old creative writing teacher. He flipped through it, his hands moving like flippers, and read to me the first few sections of the first chapter. I remember standing mesmerized. Every sentence was perfect, and not a word was wasted. It reminded me of Chesterton. I bought the book about a week later and devoured it.
-Jon Vowell (c) 2011