Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Challenge

Based on a recent post by our good colleague Old Fashioned Liberal, I thought it might be fun to challenge everyone to an essay contest. The idea would be to try to write a "Chestertonian" essay as if GKC were writing his weekly essay for "Our Note-Book" in the Illustrated London News (or as we call it, ILN). It would be limited to 1500 words (as his were), and you would have one week to write it - which was the usual time interval between his essays. (Note: you would not have to abide by his usual average of 14.2 semicolons, though that would be a fitting gesture; his average word count was 1459.5, and his average paragraph count was 5.6; he wrote 1533 essays between 1905 and 1936.)

The topic would be that suggested by the very curious post by OFL, about a child who got his tongue stuck to a lamppost.

Please note: if you have not yet read any of GKC's ILN essays, you might wish to do so before entering. (There are a number of volumes of these, available through the ACS; also, some collections of his essays such as All Things Considered and Generally Speaking are drawn almost exclusively from his ILN columns.) Many times he began with a recent item of news, be it odd or commonplace - but in his usual style he connected it with far-flung topics from literature or politics or history or religion, seasoned with deep philosophy and stirred by profound thought. And, I surmise, much prayer and sighs, awaiting the whisper from the Holy Spirit... as he waddled down the stairs, pausing on each landing to scribble out the next essay - while at the door the courier waited anxiously for him to submit this week's effort and Frances called "Gilbert! He's waiting for your next 'Note-Book'!" Oh my.

So, if you wish, please ponder the topic - you need not get the precise details from the specific paper OFL mentions; GKC would not worry about that either. A simple allusion will suffice: "The other day I read how a child stuck his tongue to a cold steel lamppost..." (Such a fertile topic, it suggests many things even to me.)

Since I propose the contest, I am willing to act as judge (if you agree); I am sure there is some curious book or something lying around here which can be used as a prize. But do read some ILN essays, and see how unique they are - then see if you would like to try it for yourself. If not, maybe make a ballade... it's certainly an apt topic. (I might try that myself. No ballades are being accepted for this contest, though.)

In order to enter, please post it with the title "Our Note-Book Contest"; you can assign your own "essay" title in the body of the posting. If you are not a member and wish to enter, please email me your entry (see my profile for my e-address) and I will post it for you.

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