Padgett Powell – who?


Those readers among you who did not enjoy Christian Bok’s passages with one vowel in Eunoia will not share my delight in discovering Padgett Powell.

In my usual way of picking up books more or less at random at my new favourite library (the Kathleen Syme in Carlton) I came upon The Interrogative Mood: a novel ?

And yes, you’ve guessed it. 164 pages where every sentence ends in a question mark.

You do need a finely tuned sense of humour to appreciate Powell. I have another of his books entitled You & I, which is a long apostrophe-less exchange between two men. Here is a small example:

A woman is walking a dog and a cat by our house in these rude suburbs and the dog is pink and the cat is blue. She does not appear to be drunk. Or famous.

She is motoring along. Apricot and blue crème.

Call out to her.

And say what?

I don’t know.


If you liked that you’re going to love this excerpt from The Interrogative Mood.

This business of the ears and nose allegedly continuing to grow throughout one’s life-can that be part of a great and benevolent creator’s design, part of a malevolent god’s design, or is it another inscrutable fact of natural selection? Is survival enhanced by a man’s looking more and more like an elephant as he nears his grave? What is your mother tongue? Do you like to party? Was there a period in your adolescence when you eschewed underwear? Do you eschew it now? Do you favour peanuts, cashews or nuts more exotic? Will you have a pet before you die, if you do not have one now? Do you grasp Ohm’s Law? Do you regard cherries as a fruit or a natural candy? Is intelligibility a function of the intelligence of the speaker, the listener, or both? Is it overrated? Is the human individual more important than the individual ant, and if so by a factor, what would you say, of what?

I would imagine you have never considered many of these questions. Think what you might miss if you don’t read this book.

On the other hand if you want to empty a room fairly fast, begin to read it aloud in a relentless manner that signals you are prepared to go on for a very long time.

But we like it.


14 thoughts on “Padgett Powell – who?

  1. I’m assuming, Gert, that you’ve already emptied a room in this way and thus speak from experience? (And that you don’t mind interrogative statements like this one?)

    1. Is it the ears and nose growing or the head shrinking? For many in your acquaintance, surely the latter is true?

      Used judiciously, and not as weaponry as Gert here suggests, would these not make a fabulous party game? Can you imagine them in one of those lists that tongue-tied party-goers who must make small talk could memorize?

      Is that last question in this part of the list, “Is the human individual more important than the individual ant, and if so by a factor, what would you say, of what?” actually intelligible? Or is it intended of more of a Rorschach? When the listener becomes befuddled and lost in it, can the questioner then sit back and study the twistings and turnings of the poor listener as he or she becomes more and more terrorized by realizing that they have lost Ariadne’s thread and will never return from the labyrinth? And does that all return us to “Little Giddings” and the ear place from whence we started?

      1. You’d have to put your tongue in cheek for this one.
        BTW I would imagine the ears and nose continue to grow in old age in order to enhance the senses that are diminishing.

          1. And did you also know that nose and chin curve towards each other as life goes on, causing one to resemble Mr Punch? And is that resemblance not enhanced by the growth of the Dowager’s Hump?

          2. Have I had to spend some time thinking about your questions, Chicken lady? And why can I not get the reply to appear in the right place? Is it possible that this is the point of the whole exercise? Is life an exercise? Does exercising cause you to use intellectual weight? Would we be better to sit down and read? How fat was Ariadne? How big were her ears? Was Rorschach a lion or a fish? Are there Big Giddings? And as our friend Nigel Molesworth would say, are the Andes?

  2. Are you doubting my words? Can you not visualize the scene? Could you not imagine my delivery would be too robust for those crippled by their addiction to screens? Are your ears not 40% larger than they were when you were an adolescent? Can I go to bed now?

    1. Surely you know the answer to your last question, Gert? Are not your eyelids drooping, your brain befuddled by a plethora of plangeant pleas and your thumbs overtwiddled from remeasuring your earlobes for the umpteenth time? No, I hear you murmur?

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