The Gossage—Vardebedian Papers (Review)

The Gossage—Vardebedian Papers (Review)

oody Allen is poison now. Nobody will touch him. But before all that sordid family stuff, before the films, he was a writer.

Even then, a lot of his short stories were silly and strange. But one, which i first read as a kid, involved two gentlemen playing chess by mail (snail mail). What could go wrong?

We see this in the form of their correspondence, with the first letter (at mid-game) pointing to an irregularity in play. Evidently a move from several turns ago was lost in the mail (blamed in distractions by “Amalgamated Anti Matter”, which just fell off the big board). So sorry. Of course, this changes the board a little, that declaration of checkmate was premature, and if you could be so kind…?

But it turns out the blatancy runs both ways. Attempts to correct the game (through the ever-increasingly heated letters) makes the two boards seemingly at odds. There are crazy suggestions of tossing disputed pieces back onto the board (to, of course, the advantage of the tosser). There are diagrams sent and rejected. And there are insults. Low-key and chiding at first, they become more acidic. “One is immediately struck [by the other’s correspondence] by a profound sense of despair, and reminded vividly of the diaries sometimes left left by doomed explorers lost at the Pole, to the letters of German soldiers at Stalingrad.” “…bound as we are to the rules established by the World Chess Federation and not the New York State Boxing Commission.” And on it goes until simultaneous victories are declared.

And the players move on to play a new game.

While reading this new, fresh after thirty years, I’m suddenly aware of how much this little chess game is like our social media, where everything is hung out to dry, every opinion valued equally and every insult hurtled. I don’t think Woody Allen was attempting to be prophetic with this story, but it certainly came out that way. Still, it was laugh out loud (LOL) craziness.

And if you’d like to read it, you can have a look HERE. Enjoy!