Written Works of
“No work worth its salt needs an introduction. Just read it.”
In his work and art, Glen is alive. Glen chronicled his experiences. He was a raconteur and in this volume, WRITTEN WORKS OF Glen Chesnut, he continues being that keen-eyed storyteller. His writing is honest, accessible, unvarnished. But don’t be duped, there’s a well-honed, well-voiced experience in these pieces. A bit of grit and wry, too.
- Born in Chicago, Il.
- B.A. In English/Philosophy , Univ. of New Mexico
- General Contractor, San Francisco
In these frightening times as we’re faced with life’s uncertainty and impermanence, a worthwhile read would be The Written Works of Glen Chesnut, compiled by his wife, Ellen. His plain-spoken stories and poems are the musings of a rough-hewn hombre who experienced more than his fair share of existential loneliness, which honed his acute observations of life along the way. His writings are a contemplation of humanity, love, absurdity and fallibility, and we could all benefit from a little more reflection lately.
For those who aren’t fans of poetry, this is not what you’d expect. Brevity being the soul of wit, Glen’s writings slap the reader upside the head with instant images that explode on the page without wordy pretension. They don’t require multiple re-readings to absorb their raw meaning. It’s all very straightforward.
Glen Chesnut was both a cowboy and a merchant seaman before he and Ellen settled down. Few can claim to have worked at both these occupations, each of which come with a guarantee of rough and tumble experiences which were fuel for Glen’s enormous creative output. And this collection is only the tip of his artistic iceberg. Along with his voluminous written work, he was a gifted painter, photographer and sculptor as well. He was surrounded by a gallery of his own making as he devoted his final years to writing.
Ellen Sarkisian Chesnut is no stranger to paying literary tribute to interesting people. Her book Deli Sarkis is an amazing chronicle of her father’s tumultuous life, from his years during the Armenian Genocide to his eventual settling in San Francisco. She followed this with We Armenians Survived! Battle of Marash 1920, a moving testimonial of eyewitnesses and survivors of one of history’s darker periods of brazen inhumanity. Preserving memories is Ellen’s forte, and this loving homage to her husband brings him back to life with his own words.
Glen was not one to harbor any illusions about the human condition. The son of Texas Dust Bowl ranchers, he learned early on about hardscrabble lives in an unsympathetic world. A cowpoke or a man at sea can spend a lot of time looking at the stars, pondering the Eternal Questions. Glen’s vignettes do just that. He didn’t need to invent any of his stories; every port of call and dank hotel room had something new to offer in the way of intrigue and human foibles. He wrote down his impressions, using his minimalist style in saying that this is just the way things are.
Though that may seem bleak, Glen’s writings are filled with subtle humor. It’s hard not to chuckle at his take on commonplace things, like the lonely insect in “Giant Flies.” Or how he wouldn’t know what to say to God in “Thunder and Lightning.” And then there’s his lyricism in “There is Power in the Mud,” which could easily be set to music. Cajun, perhaps.
But there’s something to say about the value of pathos, strongly evoked in “Mary,” the story of the Korean prostitute, who asks the merchant seaman, Tony to read an earnest love letter sent to her from another forlorn and forgotten sailor. Any time a story, a poem or a song can bring someone to tears, the author has accomplished something real. And if you ever had a dog and a cat at the same time, prepare to be floored by “Buster and Tom.”
Glen Chesnut was the proverbial tough old guy with a heart. He saw a slice of life that most people can only imagine, and he shares his insights with these writings. They will make you take pause and look up at the stars, which we should all consider doing in these troubled times.