There is nothing more wonderful than meeting a ridiculously talented person, who fills the space with absolute unassuming humility. Jaco van Schalkwyk is one of those rare specimens. He not only launched his debut novel The Alibi club a few days ago, but is also a highly regarded conceptual Artist, a skilled Musician and experimental Filmmaker, who is a member of the The Initiative for Motion Pictures within the African Continent. Pretty incredible stuff and slightly intimidating, I must say…
We met Jaco at the David Krut bookstore in Rosebank on one of the first real spring days of 2014. He was wearing his well worn boots, skinny jeans, a basic T, tortoise shell reading glasses and vintage Yves Saint Laurent blazer. Why is this relevant you might ask… because this illustrates his awareness of the details necessary in creating a certain persona. This attention to detail was just as evident in the wonderful mix of characters that frequented The Alibi club – rich men, poor men, worker men, criminals, law enforcement officers, everyday people, who all fell into this watering hole.
When I started reading this book I thought: Wow! This guy really likes short sentences. By the time I got to end of the first section, I thought: I really like these characters and by the time I got to the end of 1998 ( the chapters are set in years) I was so pulled into this world, that I was smelling the stale alcohol, tasting the beer, feeling the gravel on the pavement and hearing the pool cues striking the balls on the table.
There is a definite kind of rhythm to the storytelling in this book. This rhythm adjusts as the lead character’s state of mind goes from starry eyed tourist to local immigrant, experiencing the changes in the city and world that come after the attacks on America in 2001. He becomes aware of the flaws in the American dream and struggles with knowing he can leave at any time and wanting to stay in spite of himself.
When asked why this idea ended on the pages of a novel, instead of in a conceptual work of Art, Jaco stated that each idea belongs in a different space. This idea and this concept and what eventually became this journey ended on the pages of The Alibi club because that is where it belonged and that is where we could go along for the ride.
Go out and buy The Alibi club. Just know that you might not want to go out for drinks with friends for a while, as you will be hanging out with these guys instead. And… keep an eye out for Jaco van Schalkwyk. I reckon this guy’s signature will become one of those particularly sought after commodities some day very soon!