The aforementioned "Morality" is a modern classic. Shawn's contention that we are but a few thoughts away from, say, the madness of Hitler is hard to take but the case is clear. We are a "network of brains," in his estimation, and the conception of absolute privacy is a clever myth. "The fragility of my own thoughts is the fragility of the world," he notes.
Shawn's brief word about "Patriotism" is wonderful, too. He asks the right questions, wondering about the nobility of putting one's own country ahead of another.
There's a 2004 interview with Noam Chomsky in the first portion of the book. This showcases Shawn's ability to ask questions that are beyond the script. Even though it is in written form, the words leap off the page and the considerations are vocalized.
The second half of the book is concerned with theatre. This is punctuated by a fascinating, beautiful interview with poet Mark Strand. Strand converse eloquently and the structure is that of a natural dialogue. Shawn wonders, for instance, why people avoid reading poetry.
Also of note is "Reading Plays," an essay that first appeared as the author's note in Four Plays. This illustrates a thought I've long held about how "good" or "bad" something can be. Shawn wonders, rightly, if it isn't better to determine that there is a "nutritional" component to artistic work. "As writers, we can't predict who might come along who might find our offerings valuable," he says. "But because we've all been readers, we know what the experience is like, and we hope that what certain writers have given to us, we will give to someone."
With Essays, Wallace Shawn gives us his careful and not-so-careful considerations. Reading these works is like sitting quietly with an old friend and wondering about life, love, sex, theatre, politics, and the delicate conflict in it all.