Writer Jack Sussek, who graduated from GW “when Washington was still a sleepy town, [and] when K Street was simply the name of a downtown street no more significant than G,” has published his first novel, Manhattan Affair. It’s a political thriller set among moneyed New Yorkers, and has been attracting good reviews.
We asked Jack to reminisce about his time as an English major in our department.
First off, my time at GW was terrific. I loved going to school there (although, I must confess, by my senior year I was itching to get out of academia). The English Department was where I hung my hat and some of the courses I took very definitely shaped my ideas and views about writing, literature, and art… Four professors stand out all these years later: Profs. Ormond Seavey, Bob Ganz, Dean Linton, and Thelma Levine. Professor Seavey taught American Literature and Melville, Fenimore Cooper, and Hawthorne stand out; Ganz taught poetry and all of it stood out for me: Edward Arlington Robinson, Dickenson, Ginzburg, Levertov, and of course Whitman, to name a few. Dean Linton and his lectures on English Lit and language, and Thelma Levine’s Philosophy of Literature and Philosophy of History still influence me today.
Read everything you can get your hands on, everything; fiction, non-fiction, journalism, poetry; bad writing as well as good. To be a good writer I believe you first need to be a good reader. Write as much as you possibly can but more than that REWRITE everything at least ten times and then think about it before you rewrite it again. In retrospect, I wouldn’t major in anything else.
The story opens at the edge of the Hindu Kush on the Afghan – Pakistan border; an American agent by the name of Dimon is waiting for his asset to come over the frontier from Pakistan. This is a sudden development and the Americans don’t know why this deep cover asset suddenly wants to flee Pakistan. The asset never arrives and thus begins our story.