The Big Other Interview #1023: Andy Devine

Several years ago a writer with whom I have been linked, Henry Mescaline, published a piece in The Iowa Review (37.3) titled “First paragraph of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, (Translated from the French by C. K. Scott Moncrieff), Alphabetized,” which begins like this:

a a a a a a a a a actually after all an And and and and and and and and appeared as asleep astonished at awake awaken away be be become bed been been begin between blow book book book burning but but candle candle cause channel Charles V  […]

Thus, I was delighted to discover Andy Devine’s new book from Publishing Genius, Words, a short text that take these experiments to new places.

Page 72 of Words, by Andy DevineThere is something in Devine’s whispy precision that recalls the too-little-read 99: The New Meaning, by Walter Abish, in that text’s (il)logical pursuit of its structure, and something in Devine’s maniacal production itself that recalls Abish’s much-better-known-but-hard-to-find Alphabetical Africa.

Big Other tracked down the elusive Devine, for this all-too-brief exclusive interview:

Davis Schneiderman: Why Words? What about Numbers?

Andy Devine: The simple answer is that words come before numbers, but I think you’re asking this question because you’ve been talking to my publisher, Adam Robinson. My next book is a novel called Numbers, which is built out of alphabetized phrases, each of which contains a number. Awesome MachinePress will publish Numbers sometime in 2011.

Schneiderman: What do your parents think about the book?

Devine: My parents are dead, but the possibilities that are implicit in the book would have been too much for them. I had been holding onto the manuscript for Words for years. I never would have published the book while they were alive.

Schneiderman: Talk about the process for the novel portion of Words, Apartment City from into Our Please We Went?

Devine: The first draft was written alphabetically, as with all my fiction. I never move on to a new word until I have enough of the previous word. I do this by feel and by sound. When I finished the first draft of the novel, each instance of each word was listed. Each of the 2676 instances of her were listed, the 252 instances of if, the 59 instances of radio, the one instance of wrinkles, etc. There were quite a few pages that listed one word over and over again. As I was revising the novel, I realized that I could use numbers to indicate the number of instances of each word and that by doing so I could condense the 90K-word novel to about twenty pages.

Schneiderman: What makes Adam Robinson a “genius” per se?

Devine: Adam Robinson would tell you that he is not a genius, that the “genius” in Publishing Genius refers not to him but to the work he publishes. Of course, both usages are correct.

Appetite whetted? Check out Words here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here

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4 thoughts on “The Big Other Interview #1023: Andy Devine

  1. Awesome, Davis — this looks great.

    I love the implicit and subversive engagement with Coleridge’s formulation of good prose being the “proper words in their proper places.”

  2. I’d really like to hear what it is specifically about Andy Devine’s published work that Davis Schneiderman was so delighted to discover. What kind of response might this kind of drivel actually evoke in an avant garde artist (presumably yourself Mr. Schneiderman), let alone in a person of more postmodern, experimental fiction leanings (possibly the majority of this blog’s audience)? I mean if this blog wants to be taken even remotely seriously, then I think any one stumbling upon it deserves the respect of seeing something of even a minuscule increment higher caliber in terms of intellectual and artistic merit.

    This type of “art” conjures in my mind something liken to the “infinite monkey theorem”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_monkey_theorem_in_popular_culture

    whispy precision?

    At the Complete Review, 99: The New Meaning is given a rating of ‘C’, and described as “interesting but ultimately unsatisfying”. The final conclusion being “It is like some bizarre misshapen jigsaw puzzle, pieces from a vast number of other jigsaw puzzle forced together in one (or, in this case, five) unwieldy ones. It is more thought-piece (or concept-piece) than literature. There’s some value to that — but readers should be aware of what they’re in for.”

    In both ’99: The New Meaning’ and ‘Alphabetical Africa’, Abish actually wrote sentences!

    Please sir, for the benefit of the quality of your blog, please tell your readers of what literary or artistic merit might one’s time be spent reading ‘Words’.

    “I never move on to a new word until I have enough of the previous word. I do this by feel and by sound.”

    “There were quite a few pages that listed one word over and over again.”

    Please, excuse this “rant”, but maybe you could post your review of “Words”. Because because because because because crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap find find find find find find find find happen happen happen happen happen happen happen happen happen I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I it it it it it it it it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Hi Brian;

    Somehow I missed your screed until today when I was sending this link to someone. Sorry not to have responded earlier, etc, and I don’t have the time right now to enter into a point-by-point response.

    Still, I can tell you that I certainly did not know that the Complete Review had so thoroughly savaged Abish.

    Otherwise, I never would have dared to express a counter opinion. How could I be so dense?

    Many humble apologies.

    Please return to your regularly scheduled humanist literature and I hope you can forget–in some small part–the horrible experience you had in reading my piece on Words.

    With time, your world will return to normal.

  4. Pingback: Words by Andy Devine | Publishing Genius Press

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