We Asked Adam Novy Some Questions

Posted by Jason Diamond

To be totally honest with you, when I first received parts 1 and 2 of The Avian Gospels, (Short Flight/Long Drive) I thought to myself, “no fucking way”.  The books are designed to look and read like The Bible, and in the hands of most people, that could be a terrible idea.   But after reading both books, I thought to myself “hey, this is like a cross between The Birds, The Road, and The Stand, except way more out there.  I should ask Adam Novy a few questions.”

When you started writing The Avian Gospels, was it your intention for it to look like the bible?

Splitting the book in two and making it look a Bible were the ideas of my editor, Aaron Burch, who runs Hobart, along with Elizabeth Ellen. Aaron’s a really bright guy and he did a great job. His vision is unusual and creative. I’m blessed to have ended up with him. He understood the project incredibly well.

Not to make this a theological interview, but are you very interested in religion, and stories from the bible?

I’ve always wanted to write a sequel to the Bible. There’s a poppy, grindhouse aspect to it, crazy things are always happening—Lot’s daughters, Job, the Tower of Babel, the death of Moses, Christ, etc.—it’s terse and violent and engrossing in the same way as, like, zombie movies or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I knew there was some overlap between what I was writing and that uncanny tone and pace. The reportage is so deadpan and the stories are so old the reader ends up in a place of incredulous belief. The prose makes its own kind of truth.

When I started writing The Avian Gospels, not long after 9/11, the news had that same weird quality. Some guy with a beard in a cave hatched a plot to fly airplanes into buildings? I abetted him whenever I bought gas? I figured it was true, but as someone from a suburb in the midwest, I found these interconnections inconceivable. The book was an attempt to reckon with the feeling that we were suddenly part of history in a way we didn’t understand, that we were all inadequate to the task and that our old social narratives only left us more confused. A lot of 9/11 books focus on people finding their inner children, or discovering that their lives before the tragedy had been fatuous, and that a new and more productive, almost spiritual way of life had been revealed. This is wishful thinking, really. As James Ellroy says, “Closure is bullshit.”

How long did it take you to write the book?  Did you write both parts at the same time?

It took about three-and-a-half years to write the book, a year to find an agent—the indefatigable Susan Golomb—another year of re-writes, and a year to find a publisher. I don’t want to know how long that is. When Barack Obama got elected, I thought there might be unity and the book would be obsolete, but it didn’t seem to work that way. Just two days ago, I read that anti-masturbationist Christine O’Donnell once ate dinner on a blood-slaked altar to the devil. I guess I’m a realist.

What are you working on for the future?

Right now, I’m writing a novel about Perseus and Medusa. I’m pretty sure it’s called The Gore and the Splatter. Like The Avian Gospels, it takes place in a world that’s half mythic past, half the 80’s suburbia I grew up in.

What gives you the willies more: avian influenza or the movie The Birds?

The avian flu seemed like a hoax to me, but swine flu scared me shitless. I was teaching at Long Beach City College at the time, which is not the kind of place where folks have health insurance, and my students and I had this feeling of inevitable doom, even though, in the end, none of us got sick. I kind of feel like I might die in a plague.

I like The Birds, of course, but trendy viruses scare me more. Have you heard of Morgellon’s Disease? The victims grow colored fibers from their skin! Doctors mostly refuse to admit this disease exists—no cause has been determined—but it’s a big hit on Youtube, and many people insist they have it. The internet can make me believe anything for, like, five minutes.