while perhaps not quite far backnenough to be history, but in Buckley’snworking out of the dangers of detente,nhis play has currency as a standingnwarning to advocates of game strategyntheory in Washington.nLast but not least comes Brad.nKorbesmeyer’s Incident at San Bajo,nchosen from among 1,700 other submissionsnto win ATL’s one-act playncontest. His very nice play is the storynof seven survivors of the (fictional)npoisoning of an entire small town innCalifornia, told from the point of viewnof each. Incident at San Bajo, likenGod’s Country, is constructed like andocumentary; there is no plot, just thenwinding out of the characters’ fantasticnstories. But Korbesmeyer does thatnwell, and unlike Steven Dietz,nKorbesmeyer has assembled a wonderfulnand varied set of characters.nJon Jory is proud, I would think, ofnhis reputation for taking risks. Hisnwhole formation of a new play festivalnwas a risk for which he should only bencongratulated. He has taken the furthernrisk of commissioning a largennumber of new plays from establishednwriters who are not experienced asnplaywrights (like Crews and Buckleynthis year, or Jimmy Breslin last year, ornE.L. Doctorow next year). Sometimesnthis pans out; the Crews play especiallynis quite good. But sometimes it doesn’t.nAnd while I understand that the job ofnwading through thousands of unsolicitednscripts was colossal, it is evidentnfrom the Korbesmeyer play—a betternplay even in a staged reading thannseveral of the commissioned works thatnhad full productions — what is availablenout there, often from unknowns.n(Mr. Korbesmeyer had been workingnin management for a fast-food companynand trying unsuccessfully to breakninto television.)nOne of the best-known plays toncome out of Louisville, John Pielmeier’snAgnes of God, which has beennon Broadway and was made into anmovie, came out of nowhere, back inn1980, in the fourth year of the festival.nDitto for Beth Henley, whose Crimesnof the Heart also premiered in Louisville,nin 1979. Except for the one-acts,nwhich can still come in unsolicited andnget their reading, the Great AmericannPlay Contest Jory founded in 1978 wasndiscontinued in 1986, and I regret that.nIn garnering Doctorow and fictionnwriter Tama Janowitz for next year’snfestival Jory has gone straight to NewnYork. That’s too bad, as no place isnmore provincial. It’s worth rememberingnthat another of Jon Jory’s mostnsuccessful finds was Getting Out, anplay in the 1978 season written by notnjust an unknown but an unknownnLouisvillian named Marsha Norman.nIt also seems noteworthy to me to seenthat some of the best acting performancesnin this 1989 festival were bynATL regulars or former regulars — BillnMcNulty in Stained Glass, Bob Burrisnand Anne Pitoniak in Blood Issue.nLong-time company member AdalenO’Brien also did a nice job in Buckley’snplay. ATL has found, commissioned,nand produced a lot of good work, but itnis this local (or regional) talent that itnshould be happiest about and that is, Inbelieve, its strongest asset.nKatherine Dalton is managing editornof Chronicles.nLETTERSnThe Fallacy ofnDescriptivismnby Steven GoldbergnPeople with more than a passingninterest in words fall into twongroups: prescriptivist and descriptivist.nThe prescriptivist believes that there isnan ideal of correctness in the use ofnwords, shifting and temporally-based asnit ultimately may be. The descriptivistnfinds the concept of “correctness” elitistnat best. More often, he finds it incom­nnnprehensible.nThe one inviolable mle of descriptivismnis this: there are no correct definitions,nmeanings, or usages other thannthose used by people-in-general; anynattempt to impose some other definitionnis invalid. Where the prescriptivist subordinatesnpopular usage to correctness,nthe descriptivist rejects all other criterianexcept those used by people-in-general.nNow consider what happens whennyou ask a descriptivist how he definesn”dictionary.”nThe descriptivist might, as his inviolablenrule says he must, accept thenpopular definition of “dictionary.” If hendoes this, he will have to define “dictionary”nin the commonly accepted sensenof a book giving correct definitions thatnare determined by a literary elite. This,nafter all, is what most people meannwhen they say “dictionary.” Thendescriptivist must accept the commonnview that there is a correct usage — innthis case correct definitions—becausenhis inviolable mle requires that he acceptnthe view of people-in-general. Inngranting that there is a correct usage,nthe descriptivist grants what his inviolablenrule, his basic premise, denies.nThe descriptivist might, on the othernhand, reject the generally accepted definitionnand substitute the definition ofn”dictionary” implied by his inviolablenmle, the definition that denies thatnthere is a “correct” usage other thannthat used by people-in-general. But ifnhe does this, he does the one thing thatnhis inviolable rule prohibits: he substitutesna “correct” definition for the onlyndefinition that his basic premise grantsnas legitimate: the definition used bynpeople-in-general.nThe descriptivist cannot argue thatnpeople-in-general are incorrect in definingna “dictionary” as giving correctnusage because “incorrect” (orn”wrong”) has no meaning in thendescriptivist universe (except, perhaps,nto describe a misrepresentation of thenusage of people-in-general, which isnjust what the descriptivist does if henalters the popular definition of “dictionaryn).nWhether the descriptivist accepts ornrejects the popular definition of “dictionary,”nhis descriptivism is exposed asnrotten at its core. The contradiction isnnot merely an oddity relevant only to ansingle definition. The problem of definingn”dictionary” is but a focusednJULY 1989/49n