What Ever A Living Novel

Heather Woodbury

Faber & Faber



Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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Focusing on the lives of more than a dozen characters—among them the Oregon rave boy Skeeter, hitchhiking across the country; the progressive-thinking octogenarian Violet, remembering her life from her bohemian youth in prewar Paris to her jazz-clubbing in postwar Greenwich Village; and the street-smart prostitute Bushie, holding forth on the profanity of the world—Heather Woodbury has forged a unique kind of fiction that combines the immediacy of performance art with the narrative structure and subtle characterization of a tradition novel. Taking off from her acclaimed one-woman show of the same title, Woodbury continually surprises in this novel with her ability to create new forms while always locating the unique, resonant humanity that links all the characters to one another—and to the reader.


Praise for What Ever

"If Dickens were alive today, grew up on the West Coast, was a stripper in New York City, and attended at least one rave, What Ever would have been his breakthrough book. Read Heather Woodbury and be shocked, be moved, laugh hilariously, and rave on."—Beverly Donofrio, author of Riding in Cars with Boys

"I love the sheer ambition of What Ever—to describe our entire country through a dozen major characters and maybe a hundred minor ones . . . It is one of the greatest works you've never heard of."—Ira Glass, host of This American Life

"The roads in this grand American Odyssey criss-cross and coalesce . . . Most crucially, Woodbury is a great humanist . . . A sort of one-woman Nicholas Nickleby . . . A Whitmanesque vision of America at the end of the twentieth century. There is talk of race, abortion, mental illness, war, and ecological disaster. But in the end, there is also redemption and many reconstructed lives . . . Woodbury's remarkable, funny, outrageous, profoundly moving [epic] carries us from a rave party in Santa Cruz, to the mean streets of the East Village and Times Square in the early 1990s . . . Miraculous."—Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

"Woodbury's writing is artful and full of imagination [with] vivid characters who are distinguished by idiosyncratic speech patterns. Listen and you'll hear teenage hipsters speaking in iambic pentameter, or the narcotic howl of a homeless prostitute."—John Walch, Austin Chronicle

"As in all good novels, the characters are half the fun . . . Woodbury has a keen ear for dialogue and for the myriad ways we reveal our identities through speech."—Jack Helbig, The Chicago Daily Herald

"Think of the expansive social criticism of John Dos Passos's U.S.A. tempered by the loopy humanity of Lily Tomlin."—David Cote, Time
up0Out New York

"The potency of Heather Woodbury's performance novels lies . . . in the way the shards of story combine into an American collage."—Steven Leigh Morris, L.A. Weekly

"A modern odyssey not for a city, but for a sub-continent . . . [What Ever] bubbles with the energy of real life . . . Woodbury's America is a haunted place, all desire and no memory, searching for redemption in the richness of human experience. In this new, even more American century, [the book] is as urgently relevant as it is deliriously enjoyable . . . May be the nearest thing to an American Ulysses . . . Wildly funny and infinitely sad."—Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times

"It's been compared to Joyce's Ulysses but the more appropriate comparisons are to those two great American authors Tom Robbins and Thomas Pynchon. Just as Robbins's and Pynchon's novels often feature the journey of individuals across America where they encounter all kinds of weird and wacky scenarios, What Ever also catalogues the journey of at least ten main characters with incidental appearances by over one hundred more . . . What Ever is a mesmerizing affirmation of the generous, liberal humanity of characters steeped in the traditions of anarchistic radicalism."—Patrick Brennan, Irish Examiner

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

What Ever
PART ONECHAPTER 1IN WHICH VIOLET AND IRIS DISCUSS FORBIDDEN DANCESOur story begins long ago, in the early 1990s, when a couple of old ladies convene at the end of a counter in a bustling Greek diner on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Both are well dressed in the manner of patrician American women who hit their stride in around 1930-something--jaunty hats, handsome old furs, snappy blouses, and once-saucy skirts. One is dressed neatly and primly, however, while the other wears colors just a bit too bright for her phase of life and has a gleam in her eye a bit out of step with her
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  • Heather Woodbury

  • Heather Woodbury is a native of northern California. In her late teens, she moved to New York City's East Village and became involved in the early '90s performance art scene, where she developed her method of generating material via improvisational writing and performance. Throughout those years she lived in several NYC neighborhoods, was employed as a go-go dancer, a barmaid, and a cater waiter, and crisscrossed the country several times by car, train, bus, and thumb. Woodbury has received numerous awards as a performer and playwright. In 2001, she received an award from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, as well as an NEA Fellowship for her new work Tale Of 2 Cities: An American Joyride.