[S.] – What Begins, What Ends – First letter

Finally, here it is!

You may have read it before, here is now the first installment of Poesielos’ letter exchange with me for “S.”, by Douglas Durst, conceived by J.J.Abrams!

Just a small recap: we are writing each other letters with ideas and theories about each chapter of the aforementioned novel “S.”.

Poesielos did a great job explaining the whole idea in her (much sooner written) post about this (including scans of my first letter), so please feel free to stop by!

I thought about how to make my remarks on your ideas and I thought I’d like it to do in the next best fashion as Jen and Eric do, via replying immediately. So, although this might be terrible to read dear readers, please bear in mind that we have the same difficulty/awesomeness with the source book, “S”.

My remarks will be made in dark green, to be easily distinguished from Janine’s work. Let’s dive in!


“And down the rabbit hole we go.” I have the same feeling towards this!

Goodness, what exactly did we sign up for? Hopefully an adventure! This book is as beautiful as it’s clever and complicated and I am absolutely in love with it already! I better apologize righ away for the mess which is sure to follow – my mind is jumping from theory to theory like crazy while going through the notes I made during reading.

You did not make a mess. You’re fairly organized. One can also see the effort in thought and note-taking it took you, thank you for that. This makes this project so alive!

I am sure one could talk all day about the sheer amount pf detail in S. Weeks. As soon as you take it out of the slip case, it genuinely looks like a library book and how to even begin writing about the contents inside? Well, the first thing that got me very curious was the label on the spine. Let’s decode it!

I have to say, I’m put to shame by your efforts. I thought it might turn out quite realistic, but I would not do the work myself I have to admit, haha! Also, it would have been fun if something completely random would take place with the codes, or something like “schizophrenia” etc.

It’s the Dewey Decimal System (DDS), the call numbers tell you the main  class, division and section the book belongs to. Melvil Dewey invented it in 1876 and it’s today used in libraries in over 135 countries. Seriously, that topic itself is really fascinating! But anyway, I found two possible translations for you:

a) 813 = American fiction in English

.54 = further narrows down the topic

Funny side note: that number was the example for decoding DDS on basically all the pages I stumbled upon. Coincidence? Think not.

b) Library Thing has a system based on DDS which is called Melvil Decimal System (MDS). Due to the most recent DDS editions being under copyright, the MDS is based on editions already in the public domain and naturally differs from DDS. here 813.54 stands for Literature > American and Canadian > Fiction > 20th Century > 1945-1999

STR is of course short for Straka and 1949 refers to the year Ship of Theseus (SoT) was published.

Because that’s the thing: we are reading S by J.J.Abrams and Doug Dorst…while a c t u a l l y reading SoT written by V.M.Strake (VMS) and translated by F.X. Caldeira (FXC), Before we go there, let me briefly mention three other little thins I noticed: Theseus is a hero in Greek mythology. the Ship of Theseus refers to a thought experiment. The book is published thrwough winged Shoes Press – The Greek God Hermes wears such shoes.

Nice obersvation there! I would like to know more baout the thought experiement. I should look it up, but I’m afraid I’ll spoil myself. So I won’t.

If you open SoT, you’ll discover that there are notes all throughout it in different colours and handwritings. That’s due to our protagonists (somehow weird using that word for them!), Jen and eric, passing the book back and forth between one another. I’m really interested in your ideas of decoding the different time lines, this is my take so far:

pencil – Eric’s first notes, maybe done during his first stages of research

blue + blackJen finds the book and she starts passing it with Eric for the first time

red + lilaclater added comments by Eric and Jen, before Jen’s hearing

black – comments done after red and lilac by both of them in the same color

orange + greencomments by Jen and Eric, not sure yet where they fit in…

S. probably another reader leaving only this mark behind?

I had roughly the same ideas for the color code, although I have the feeling there are at least 4 different timelines in the book. Oldest: Blue + Black, Middle: Red + Lilac, Black, and then Orange + Green are the newest, I think.

There are a total of 19 VMS books published between 1911 and 1949, SoT being the last one. Our edition actually belonged to the Laguna Verde High School were Eric “burrowed” it from – I like to imagine that it was his first VMS novel somehow. Eric and Jen are both at the Pollard State University (sort of)

I am now seeing this, “Laguna Verde” has this touch of sailor/pirate story to it, don’t you think? 

The reading for the first round consisted of

  • Translator’s Note and Foreword
  • Chapter 1: what begins, what ends

There’s a lot of stuff going on in these 37 pages and it takes a bit getting used to. So far I am more interested in the comments by Jen and Eric as the actual story… and I don’t even want to write about the foot notes yet.

For me, five main concepts and topics arised which I would like to talk about. In no particular order:

  1. Greek mythology
  2. beginnings and endings
  3. question of identity
  4. unreliable narration
  5. mirroring


  1. I guess Greek mythology is going to play some role – we’ve already got the reference in Winged Shoe Press, there’s Theseus himself being mentioned and the meeting of S and Sola could be a mirroring of Theseus and Ariadne. Definitely keeping my eyes open for further references! I am both humbled and scared by your extensive knowledge of literature. I never read this in school… And never bothered to read it afterwards.
  2. “What begins, what ends” – (certainly a lot of work for us begins now XD… can’t see the end yet XD) the topic of beginnings and endings is already in the first chapter title. We’ve a bunch of them: the start of Jen and Eric’s relationship, the mentioning of the end of Eric’s academic career, the death of VMS, the beginning of S’ journey and the loss of his former self, the graduation of Jen in may which will end her college years, Jen starting to read VMS books for the first time … we also can’t be sure yet of the excat timeline for all the notes so some could be written at the very end. Maybe this topic won’t stay for long with us though… although I could imagine S ending up in some kind of loop, having to return to the water once more at the ending to start again where we met him at the beginning – I like crazy stuff like that is it’s pulled off well! I am guessing the same. It’s kinda too obvious at this point though, who knows? Would be awesome though still if executed well, I agree!
  3. The question of identity is one of Eric’s pencil notes and so important! VMW is this big mystery . no real records or knowledge about him but a thousand rumors! I loved reading about the different theories about who could be behind VMS and maybe we an discuss this topic later on in the book. So far we don’t have enough clues yet for making up our minds. Nope. Even Eric, who has studied him and his body of wor for quite a while, differs betweens his standpoints. Oh, and if we are already talking about him: Eric himself is a mystery for a few pages! Jen immediately introduces herself but Eric doesn’t state his name til ten pages in the first chapter. Pretty surprised she didn’t ask him sooner about it… VMS and FXC have – according to FXC – never met just like Eric and Jen haven’t so far (–> mirroring each other!), which means their identity is still elusive to the other one. In the main text we have the big question of S’ identity, the identity of Sola and the sailors, The S. Maybe there’s also another reader who does the S mark who’s identity we also don’t know yet.
  4. Unreliable narration is such an interesting point! I mean, Eric and Hen have both already shown that they’re unreliable narratos and that we’ve to question them from time to time. Especially considering the entire situation with Prof. Moody, I don’t trust Eric fully. Something just seems rotten here. FXC and the additions to the text as well as the entore stpry about VMS death can be questioned – and are by Eric – so this character could also be unreliable. VMS can be counted as unreliable if he encouraged all the wild talk about himself, and there’s also the matter for including fake books into his work and suddenly a real one. [Arquimedes de Sobreiro: The Archer’s Tale (El libro de S)] I think we are in for quite some more suprises! I would not be surprised if Moody and Eric have a much tighter relationship as we’ve heard so far. Somehow I sense some thriller action going on as well. I could imagine that Jen and Eric have to flee at one point.
  5. My last major point would be mirroring. We have the dual nature of two people involved in the making of a book with

J.J.Abrams and Doug Durst <–> VMS and FXC

There are two main characters in the text and around it:

S-Sola <–> Eric and Jen

Falling from great heights, resulting in death, is mentioned a few times.

  • VMS+FXC both have two first names
  • VMS+FXC communicating via ‘discussions in the margins’ <–> Eric # Jen doing the same in a way

Both pairs plan to meet but the meetings don’t take place.

  • dd movies are enjoyued by Jen and Eric.
  • 19 books <–> 19 sailors NICE! Maybe each one can represent a certain characteristic which was important in each book respectively. Motifs etc.
  • water: S ‘waking’ in the water, Eric flooding the hall Uuuh, nice one! This stirs up (hehe) some more ideas who Eric is really. Maybe he is more a creator, maybe he is even Sola? By the way, SOLAS stands for “Safety Of Life at Sea”. LOL.

The ketter S is mirrored in several words and phrases, for example

[The Serin Institute for lit. Studies (The S.?)


[The Book of S

[the symbol



[VMS +FXC: supposedly at the same hotel at nearly the same time

Eric + Jen: have been at the same places at the same time]

  • Eric not telling Jen about theories <–> Sola not telling S much
  • Eric already had a hearing <–> Jen is going to have a hearing (–> beginning and end)
  • Imperia – the ship Sola took as well as the one FXC took from Brazil to NY

BEAUTIFUL! Exactly! I wouldn’t have seen half of what you brought up here but it’s great! Especially well caught is the Imperia fact. Maybe the whole book is a code for FXC to be together with VMS? A last call for help maybe?

I do believe this is enough for now. the code in the footnotes totally escaped me  before Jen mentioned it … should be fun to see whether there are going to be more such clues. We have a few teasers for connections to later chapters in the notes which I am pretty excited about. The way VMS is tried to be placed in the real world somehow reminded me of Zampanò from “House of Leaves” and Cordova from “Night Film” (both also remain rather mysterious characters).

S’ story picks up a lot at the end of the chapter and the way he’s ‘shanghaied’ was written rather well. I don’t know but the sailors were so creepy! Did you watch the original trailers for the book? No spoilers for me ^^ The mouths are playing a role there and it’s not really taking much away from the effect of reading this scene!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this part as much as I did. The book itself is a real artwork and the story has me hooked.


Looking foward to your letter, my dear, and hitherto

Bon Voyage!

for the second chapter of SoT


Thaaaaank you for your beautiful letter dear Janine! I had tons of fun reading it, also with my pondering about what you’ve written. It sure is something this novel, isn’t it?

I am way behind schedule, so I will just try to do my best in the upcoming days to let you receive a worthy second installment!

Unfortunately I can’t show your excellent letter in jpeg format, so here is the phenomal PDF version for everyone to see, please have a look! It’s gorgeous you guys!

DOC091215-09122015082612 <– mysterious code for enabling the letter to be opened! Klick me!

2 thoughts on “[S.] – What Begins, What Ends – First letter

  1. A part of me is terribly sorry that you had to type all this… but I’m really happy our little project is truly taking off now! I loved reading your comments and I’d like to add some new ones too:

    – I actually wondered whether there was some sort of clue hidden in the sticker… that would have been neat!
    – We will hopefully discuss the thought experiment at a later point – you’ll love it!
    – The next important question: will they use more colors?
    – Haha, you’re right! Laguna Verde is the name of a salt lake in Bolivia by the way.
    – I have a thing for mythology although Greek mythology isn’t my strongest suit…
    – Let’s paraphrase Einstein and agree that the more we learn, the less we know – and it makes me mad! Ch. 2 really ain’t helping in that department either. I really want to know what happened between Eric and Moody!
    – “Fleeing” is acceptable, anyone dying definitely not!!
    – Guess who just googled “meaning of the number 19” and is screaming?? I mean, just read this stuff (, especially the third paragraph!
    – I didn’t know about SOLAS – great clue you found, dear! Somehow it would be cool if any of our protagonists in the /current/ day would relate to VMS and FXC, wouldn’t it?
    – Maybe. Or VMS mixed real life events with his fiction? Still that raises interesting questions about the relationship between VMS and FXC (are they co-workers, friends, lovers..?)
    – You’re stronger than me… I’m always way too curious! Book trailers are such a fun, neglected medium.

    Please stop worrying so much about schedules – WE make the schedule for this project 😉

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