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First Reader Response: The Supervisor

June 4, 2013

randallIn The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub, the narrator’s PhD is supervised by the misanthropic Professor Thrub. I was a lot luckier: my PhD, a version of which is soon to be published as The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub by Barbican Press, was supervised by Dr Martin Randall. Randall, whose publications include 9-11 and the Literature of Terror, did everything a supervisor should do: he directed me to the books I needed to read (it helped that he’s probably the most widely read person I’ve ever met); he pulled me back from the edge of madness (one draft included a 6000-word fairy tale, which Randall said destroyed his will to live); and he showed me what I’d unknowingly done (on one occasion, he returned two chapters to me with almost no annotation except, every few pages, the word ‘sh*t’ scribbled in red pen. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘he really hates it’; in fact, he’d noticed there were repeated references to excrement – the final annotation read, ‘corporeality or coprophilia?’).

A few days ago I received advance copies of the novel, and the first thing I did was present a copy to Dr Randall. What would he make of its transformation from an academic thesis into a published novel? I think many doctoral students experience a life-long desire for their supervisor’s approval; what if Randall hated the book? Fortunately, he didn’t write sh*t on it, nor did it destroy his will to live. He wrote:

It’s a mighty novel: a ferociously intelligent book that is quite the best thing I have read for some time. It made me laugh, rush to the dictionary (an underrated pleasure), and consider the nature of being. And I confess to a little tear at the end.

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