John Chaffee’s new book is One Thousand Thoughts, in Five Words or Less
John Chaffee’s new book is One Thousand Thoughts, in Five Words or Less. The title in some ways is indicative of the book’s literal expression of the titular One Thousand Thoughts, but by the same token also alludes to something deeper. Perhaps something swirling around deep within Chaffee’s psyche. You can’t help but almost feel like you’re reading a word salad by a high-functioning schizophrenic, except that’s countered factually by Mr. Chaffee’s decorated record as a veteran, a commercials writer, and a songwriter.
Plus, it’s countered by the fact that the strange, disjointed sayings and sentences themselves possess such a crisp, near-perfect clarity and ideological synchronicity it couldn’t possibly be just the ramblings of an inspired, but say – hands-off creative professional’s indecipherable vanity project. Once you can get onboard with the strange way Chaffee structures the book, that’s when you begin to get sucked in. In his biography, Chaffee is noted for having gone through an evolution when it comes to linguistics. It’s as if he’s become bored with pesky literary devices like storytelling, focal points, sentence structure.
Out with the old, in with the…thoughts…It’s as if Chaffee just wants to give you ideological nexuses in their purest forms. Without any dressing, without any context. Just the raw feelings themselves. In less competent hands, this could be a disaster. An unreadable, ideologically illegible mulch. But Chaffee has too much in his arsenal to ever let that occur. Here, there’s just straight craft – presented in a formation you would never imagine could work. As far as I am concerned, that is a sign of what may very well border on true genius. Much like cooking, a good writer like a chef can pretty much proverbially sauté anything into presentable form. This is demonstrated throughout the book in numerous passages, much like the following.
“Sleep in your own bed, Are left-handers usually right, Even winding roads straighten out, When you’re lost, ask, Always say yes to challenges, Pick a place and go, Pick a pace and go, Show a child yourself, See more when you explore, We go, our memories stay,” Chaffee writes. “Try not to disappoint yourself, Like to listen to yourself, The ugliest animal isn’t ugly, No caution, stop, or go, Always check your messages, Clouds eventually lift, Careful picking up broken glass, Have some variety, mix well, It’s what’s behind your eyes, Ignore all things sterile.” Then, later in the book, the childlike nature of the sayings start to take a slightly darker turn.
There’s a sense Chaffee navigates light and dark throughout the read, sometimes juxtaposing timeless thoughts with the more mature, nuanced peaks and valleys of adulthood themes. “Answer all cries for help, Time heals most wounds, Most of all, be you, Don’t give up the ship, Veterinarians go to the dogs, Marijuana won’t make you faster, Always wear clean underwear, Hard to swallow soft drinks, Hold your head up high, Seek a level playing field.”