On drafts: geniuses, and the rest of us

The University of Texas at Austin has acquired 120 boxes of Don DeLillo’s notes, drafts, typescripts, and other materials related to his novels and plays, “as well as a comprehensive collection of articles and stories, correspondence and unpublished material for the screenplay ‘Game 6.'” Some documents date to 1959, while other materials were written as recently as 2003.

This is one of his Underworld notebooks:

DeLillo's Underworld notebook

I’m always impressed and more than a little amazed when writers hand over their drafts for posterity like that. The willingness to reveal notes and thoughts-in-progress must separate the geniuses from the rest of us.

I destroy as I go. I write some pages, type them into my ongoing draft, tear the handwritten versions into a trillion pieces and throw them in a garbage bag with the cat litter.

For kicks I’ve held onto some notebooks from college. I tossed out most of them, along with the ones from (shudder) high school, during the great Teenage Angst Fest of 2003, but I kept one or two for the entertainment value of “ideas” like this one:

character loosely based on X. Well, not X so much as his unwashed/ungroomed/possibly rabid/genital-sniffing wolf cub held illegally in captivity. Include vague reference to Beavis & Butthead and how X sits with wolf cub, both farting, as they watch the show.

Also, this, from notes for a story written in the second person:

Think of Simone de Beauvior. Wonder what she would think if she were in this situation: alone on a train with no cigarettes approached by a handsome stranger who may well be a mouth-breather and clearly is no Sartre.


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