Jacques Strauss's Blog - Posts Tagged "editor"

The first draft of the ‘Dubious Salvation of Jack V’ was told from the perspective of a number of characters. Their lives intersected, quite improbably, at a lecture given by Jacques Derrida at the University of South Africa in 1998. The centrepiece of the novel was three chapters dedicated to the lecture entitled ‘Forgiving the unforgiveable’. (Yes, three chapters, THREE about a Derrida lecture – with some Kafka thrown in for good measure).

I was very proud of my work. I remember thinking it quite the most original and beautiful thing that had ever been written. With great excitement I printed out dozens of copies one weekend and sent it to friends and family all over the world. There was only one person who actually said (to my face) that the novel was ‘unreadable’ but I would have to have been afflicted with an optimism that bordered on psychopathological to think that anyone enjoyed the book, at all. And I noticed that some people were actively avoiding me, horrified by the prospect that I might inflict my masterpiece on them again. ‘Fuck ‘em,’ I thought. ‘Fuck all those fucking philistines. They know nothing.’ Turns out though, they probably did. You see the euphemistic equivocation so often employed by our loved ones is not nearly so pointed a message as a rapidly growing pile of rejection slips. Indeed this experience is sufficiently pointed to eventually penetrate the writer’s skull, no matter how thickened by deposits of egotism.

One night I was throwing out piles of manuscripts when I noticed one passage that had been circled and the words ‘I like this!’ written in the margin. It was a flashback to Jack Viljee’s childhood. These were the passages that came most easily to me and also those I had most enjoyed writing. And so began the slow process in which I whittled away the other characters, the philosophy and the lecture. Fragments of the first novel remained for a long time. Eventually someone (not me) put a red line through the last references to Derrida, something which I had managed to maintain through the most contorted narrative any writer has had the temerity to thrust upon an unfortunate reader.

The book in no way resembles what I had originally written. But scrapping my first book was too painful a blow, so I have persisted in the fantasy that the Dubious Salvation of Jack V, is the first book I have written. It just happens to be the thirty-seventh draft.
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Published on April 16, 2011 11:00 • 76 views • Tags: agent, book, debut, editor, publising, writing