I’ve avoided writing a story on the Washington Square chess hustlers because they are almost too obvious. Many of them are homeless, or borderline homeless. But they are the smartest homeless people in the world. A lot of them are drug addicts. They are all eccentric. When you walk by the chessboards, they call out to you, trying to convince you to “take a shot.” The starting wager is $2 a game. I’ve never played. But I imagine, like all hustlers, they let you win the $2 game. They probably even let you win the next $2 game. Then, reluctantly, they allow you to raise the wager to $20. That’s when they beat you in 90 seconds.
No book is dangerous in and of itself. A book is only a collection of words in a certain order, pages, screens, a sequence of ideas. Ideas alone can never hurt us. People only make ideas dangerous by fearing and hating them, and by vilifying and persecuting those who disagree with them. In this way, the association of a writer with his ideas can be very dangerous, even deadly. You stand a reasonably good chance of denying ever having read a book, but it’s a great deal harder to hide from having written one.
Beyond this, though, lies the deeper problem for those who imagine that they can write, and yet escape a reckoning. Writers are generally fated to commit the truest parts of themselves to the page, whether they choose to own their work in public or not. That is the ultimate vulnerability, and it is inescapable."