a, A novel
Book, 23,2 x 15,7 cm, 451 p, language: English, publisher: Grove Press Inc, New York, ISBN: N/A.
Materials: ink, paper
Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2024/445).
In the late 60s Andy Warhol set out to turn a trade book into a piece of pop art, and the result was this astonishing account of the famously influential group of artists, superstars, addicts and freaks who made up the Factory milieu. Created from audiotapes recorded in and around the Factory, a, A Novel begins with the fabulous Ondine popping several amphetamines and then follows its characters as they converse with inspired, speed-driven wit and cut swaths through the clubs, coffee shops, hospitals, and whorehouses of 1960s Manhattan. It includes a glossary by Warhol biographer Victor Bockris, giving more explanation to this conceptually unique work.
Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice
a, A Novel is largely unreadable, in the same way that Warhol's films are largely unwatchable. Warhol wanted to be a writer but much like his film work, spontaneous performances and an explicit lack of editing was used as a device. Warhol wanted to write a "bad" novel, "because doing something the wrong way always opens doors." Four typists were employed to transcribe the Warhol/Ondine tapes. Maureen Tucker, the drummer for the Velvet Underground was an expert typist. However, she refused to transcribe the swear words and left them out. Two high school girls were hired to work on some of the tapes. When one girl's mother heard what they were listening to she threw out the tape, losing several hours of conversation. All four hired typists transcribed the dialogue differently, some identifying the speakers, others not. The editor for a, A Novel, Billy Name, preserved the transcripts as is, with every typo and inconsistent character identification, and even moving from two column pages to single-column based on each typist's style. The final printed version was identical to the typed manuscripts.
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