THE INTERROGATIVE MOOD by Padgett Powell

Book Quote:

“Of the children you may have known who were afraid of clowns, did they strike you then or later, as well-adjusted children or disturbed?”

Book Review:

Review by Doug Bruns (JAN 27, 2010)

I did not want to read this book particularly. I wanted to read the author. Padgett Powell who was, a few years ago, considered by Saul Bellow to be “at the top” of the list of younger best American writers. I wanted to read him. But not this book. I mean, really, who wants to read a book, even a small book like this one (164 pages), where every sentence ends in a question mark? Hence the title. How many questions might there be in one hundred sixty four pages? A quick scan resolves to about fifteen sentences–that would be questions–per page. That amounts to, roughly, two-thousand, four hundred and sixty questions. Who wants that?

But read it I did. And with relish. I am by nature suspect of literary devices, of any–most?–devices, for that matter. Give it to me straight forward and without fancy dancing. That’s what I say. So, second reason for wanting to avoid this book. It is a book of literary of a singular literary device: the consistent, relentless, probing, humorous and revelatory interrogative mood. Was it boorish (can a book be boorish?), as I feared. Not a chance. Repetitive? Never. To the contrary. Boring? Nope. I loved this book. And the questions? Brilliant!

Let me give you a “paragraph” of examples. I put paragraph in quotes because I am unsure about the form of this book in general and about paragraphs in particular. (Fortunately there are no chapters. I don’t know what’d I do about that.) Here goes:

“Did you have an uncle who was an artillery engineer in a war? Are you interested in the nuances of grease? Are you for or against canals, in principle? Is it hard for you to credit that dinosaurs flew? Do you know the average career length of the top-flight runway model?”

You start to read this book, thinking that the questions and how you ponder them reflect in some fashion on you, the reader. But half-way through you realize it is not you who is the subject, it is the writer. It is not the answers, but the questions. The more questions, the more you realize the uniqueness of the questioner. How else can you explain a question like this: “If you were presented a nipple with a ring through it in a sexual situation, is your first move to bite the ring itself, or to take the ring in whole, or to do something else altogether, like run?”

There is nothing much I can say about this book. I mean, how do you comment on a book that has no characters, no plot, is devoid of narration and everything we associate with the reading experience? Although this is not quite accurate. There is the omniscient interlocutor. And there is, whether we intend it or not, the uncontrollable synaptic firings in response. So, in that respect the reading experience is remarkably unique and, dare I use an over-used phrase?, inter-active. Question answer. Question answer. Some follow up perhaps. Sometimes not.

Get this book. Read it. It feels important. Does it bother you that I can’t say why?

AMAZON READER RATING: from 28 readers
PUBLISHER: Ecco; 1st Edition (September 29, 2009)
REVIEWER: Doug Bruns
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? YES! Start Reading Now!
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wkipedia page Padgett Powell
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Other short reads:

Sum by David Eagle

This is Water by David Foster Wallace

Bibliography:


January 27, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Unique Narrative

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