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The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?by Padgett Powell
Synopses & Reviews
Are you happy? Do we need galoshes? Are bluebirds perfect? Do you know the distinctions, empirical or theoretical, between moss and lichen? Is it clear to you why I am asking you all these questions? Should I go away? Leave you alone? Should I bother but myself with the interrogative mood?
The acclaimed writer Padgett Powell is fascinated by what it feels like to walk through everyday life, to hear the swing and snap of American talk, to be both electrified and overwhelmed by the mad cacophony — the muchness — of America. The Interrogative Mood is Powell's playful and profound response, a bebop solo of a book in which every sentence is a question.
Perhaps only Powell — a writer who was once touted as the best of his generation by Saul Bellow and among the top five writers of fiction in the country by Barry Hannah — could pull off such a remarkable stylistic feat. Is it a novel? Whatever it is, The Interrogative Mood is one of the most audacious literary high-wire acts since Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine. Powell's unnamed narrator forces us to consider our core beliefs, our most cherished memories, our views on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In fiction as in life, there may be no easy answers — but The Interrogative Mood is an exuberant book that leaves the reader feeling a little more alive.
"Powell (Mrs. Hollinsworth's Men) is in playfully provocative, top form in this slender book fashioned solely as a series of questions beginning with his limpid first: 'Are your emotions pure?' and ending with his prickly last: 'Are you leaving now? Would you? Would you mind?'
Thoughtful, cajoling and absurdist, Powell's random non sequiturs are not without their method, sounding some tenderly recurring themes, such as a middle-aged ruefulness for simpler times, a longing for more elegant forms in clothes, tools, cars and looks and a tenderness for elephants, dogs and children. At moments the questions become self-revelatory, as if the narrator is interviewing for a partner or friend ('Would you believe me if I tell you that I am a little fragile, psychologically speaking...?'), while also challenging the reader with pointed questions regarding ethical gravitas: 'Are you bothered by your cowardice?'
Hilarity, irony, and sheer perverseness vie to question essentially what we know and how what we know makes us what we are." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“If Duchamp or maybe Magritte wrote a novel (and maybe they did. Did they?) it might look something like this remarkable little book of Padgett Powells.”
About the Author
Padgett Powell is the author of four novels, including Edisto, which was nominated for the National Book Award. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Harpers, the Paris Review, and Esquire. He lives in Gainesville, Florida.
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