“Write for whatever holy thing you believe in.”
~ Mary Oliver
Q: What are you writing about these days?
A: Er. Um. Buster Keaton, actually.
Q: Really. Why Buster Keaton?
A: Do you want the short answer? Because there is no short answer.
I’ve lost count of the number of times some Kind Person or other has asked this very question during the last two years, since I first followed Buster Keaton down the rabbit hole. It’s true, there is no short answer, nor has there always been (at least to me) a clear answer. And it’s not as though I’ve been trying to be coy about it.
What began as a keen and sudden interest in a subject soon snowballed into flat-out research as I was drawn into the life of a vaudevillian who happened also to be a child prodigy. One interesting fact led to another, and before long I was writing about young Buster, imagining my way onto the gas-lit stage and into his brilliant, comic mind as he performed his unique brand of physical comedy.
I guess that’s the short answer. It’s not the whole answer, but it’s a start.
(Buster Keaton ca. 1902, age 7. Photo source: the Margaret Herrick Library digital collections)