According to Gary Cummiskey’s blog, Whiplash was turned down by the established publishers for being too violent. They may be kicking themselves in the ass because I have a feeling this book, published by the new kid on the block, Modjaji Books, may take off in a big way.
Whiplash is the story of a Cape Town prostitute, Tess. It is violent in places because it is the reality of Tess’ life, a life of throw-away women whose use is only defined by the physical needs of the men they come in contact with. The book is much more than the story of the “bad” men hurting the marginalised women, the book is about digging through the surface crap to find that each of us, no matter how the outside world might define us, is special, unique and holy and that shouldn’t be set aside or forgotten.
The book is written in Tess’ voice. Farren didn’t allow the authenticity of her character’s voice to be tampered with by the confines of good grammar and polite narrative. This I love most. It let’s the reader get closer to Tess than they would have had Farren followed the laid down rules. (Don’t you just love those rule breakers! )
The beginning of the book is relentless in its battering of the reader. Tess’ addiction to prescription pain killers pushes her out to find ‘jumps’. The way Farren allows us into Tess’ brain to feel the way that the addiction takes up all parts of her life is fascinating.
The story is a letter to Tess’ mother to explain the three ‘miracles’ that finally set her free. Again Farren teaches us that turning points aren’t always pretty, but still they can teach us a lesson that points us in the right direction.
In an interview with Ron Irwin, Farren explained what she feels is at the core of her novel. ‘The essential identity of all people is pure and innocent. I have a big, big problem with the doctrine of original sin. Tess’s’ life’, Farrren said,’ plays out this truth. Tess finds a tiny spark within her that leads her to remember her true, sacred identity.’
This is the first novel for Modjaji Books after putting out two successful books of poetry earlier this year. If this is the standard that they can maintain, the established South African publishers better up their game.