REVIEW John Chaffee — One Thousand Thoughts, in Five Words or Less (BOOK)
John Chaffee is what I would call a ‘literary artist’, in the sense that he isn’t a writer in any standard format. His new book, titled One Thousand Thoughts, in Five Words or Less, is by no means an exercise in world building. It’s rather a culmination of what seem to be disparate, colorful aspects of the author’s id, a series of well-crafted and thematically ordered slogans reflecting Chaffee’s background in music and commercials.
“Liars lips move the same, What cartoon character are you, Voodoo dolls are for professionals, Are you settling for okay, How much can you take, Do you need a lawyer, Small minds can’t travel far, What are you waiting for, The cave man never texted, Are men working signs sexist,” reads one particularly cryptic section of the book. Another: “Not tired, but sleeping together, Words will never hurt me, Don’t ever sell your soul, Your church is within you, Try not to skip school, Be firm when stalking stability, This is no laughing matter, Oh sweet smell of victory, Mosquitos all have blood relatives, You don’t have to go.”
At the risk of not sounding professional, sometimes one has to wonder: What in the hell is this guy on about? What do strange, seemingly personal sentiments and euphemistic analogies a la Your church is within you or Mosquitos all have blood relatives say about Chaffee’s life? His experiences? His thoughts? His feelings? Presumably there is something personal about the whole affair. After all, unless he’s a first-class artistic troll, Chaffee leaves several pages of the book blank for the reader to fill in their own, similarly strange sayings and slogans.
“Get ready, raise the bar,” Chaffee writes in a slightly more obvious passage. “I’m not available right now, Please signal before you turn, Stay off the beaten path, What would I do, without, You have to be fast, I am who I am, Stay in your own lane, Little sisters sometimes protect you, Stop signs mean just that.” It’s interesting juxtaposing these kinds of sentiments, however semi-ambiguous and interpretive, with Chaffee’s own life experiences outside his work. His biography reads, in part, “(John) was born in Detroit, Michigan, graduated New Haven High School, enlisted in the Army, and then began a (thirty-seven) year career in broadcasting, transitioning from radio copywriting, to programming, to television, to senior management.
After that experience, John began pursuit of his lifelong passion, songwriting…Since then he’s written about love, fun, places, holidays, the American spirit. Many of John’s tunes are available on Amazon, I-Tunes or Spotify, and were recorded and performed by top session musicians and singers in Nashville.” It’s interesting with that kind of a background, and in the cutthroat musical scene that is Nashville, Tennessee Mr. Chaffee would pursue endeavors like One Thousand Thoughts, in Five Words or Less. The entertainment business, in whatever specific vicinity, rarely breeds a sense of genuine altruism or lightness of being. But with Mr. Chaffee, it all feels earnest and personal.