by Matthew Walls
NDG is not a neighbourhood likely to breed urbane poets. Urban, yes, but
Neale McDevitt, a graduate of Concordia in English, has been an NDG resident
for all his 39 years. His first collection of short stories, One Day
Even Trevi Will Crumble, is set in the NDG neighbourhoods he has known,
and its mixture of the profane and the poetic is what has kept him there.
As the books main character, McVie, says in one story, NDG
love isnt high art or idyllic devotion. Its visceral and sad
and, in many ways, its based purely on white-knuckled survival.
That could be said just as easily about McDevitts own efforts to
First written as a novel three years ago, One Day Even Trevi Will Crumble
was the work of several years.
He turned the chapters into stories and submitted some of them in his
application to Concordias creative writing program in 2001. When
he was turned down, he reworked them and resubmitted them in 2002, but
again he was unsuccessful.
Then, he says, speaking much like McVie, he busted his ass to polish
these stories and show those pricks. It worked. Since its publication
last November, McDevitts short-story collection has had favourable
reviews in The Gazette and Hour.
Finding a voice as a writer was one of the toughest battles of his life.
Id never been able to find a voice that was comfortable. Then
I read Bukowski and it was really a moment of true epiphany: You can be
gritty and beautiful.
Like Charles Bukowski, McDevitt writes about those on the margins
homeless people, hookers, taxi drivers and bikers. Most of the stories
are told in the first-person, narrated by a character who is not exactly
McDevitt, but who shares a lot of his sentiments and interests.
McDevitt himself is no stranger to the rough-and-tumble. Hes been
a regular at his local YMCA since childhood, where he trained successfully
enough to become the Pan-Am weightlifting champion in 1985 and a member
of Canadas rugby team at the 1986 Commonwealth Games.
I still maintain to this day that Im the only writer who could
lift 400 pounds, he said.
McVies grandfather tells him early in life that the world
is mean as hell, boy. Youd better buckle up.
He doesnt always manage to, but he never gives up on his search
for that state of grace. It was something that Hemingway sought too, but
for McVie, Hemingway can have the blatant gush and roar of the bullfights,
Ill take Venice and its slow descent into the sea.
Writing does not yet pay his bills, so McDevitt has had to work at other
jobs, one of them at Chapters bookstore.
Having now put Autographed by author stickers on his own books,
he jokes that he needs one more appropriate to his case: Shelved
Even Trevi Will Crumble is published by Exile Editions, of Toronto.