*An Oprah Magazine
Pick for 16 Books To Start 2016 Right*
*An NPR Pick for Best Books of 2015*
*A Vanity Fair Pick for Best Books of 2015*
*A Chicago Tribune Shortlist Pick for Best Books of 2015*
*An Electric Literature Pick for Best Short Story Collections of 2015*
From the highly acclaimed author of EDISTO and THE INTERROGATIVE MOOD, Padgett Powell’s new collection of stories, CRIES FOR HELP, VARIOUS, follows his mentor Donald Barthelme’s advice that “wacky mode” must “break their hearts.” The surrealistic and comical terrain of most of the forty-four stories here is grounded by a real preoccupation with longing, fear, work, loneliness, and cultural nostalgia. These universal concerns are given exhilarating life by way of Powell’s “wit, his. . .dazzling turns of phrase” (Scott Spencer). In “Joplin and Dickens,” the musician and writer meet as emotionally needy students in an American middle school; in “Change of Life,” a father ponders whether getting new clothes for the family or the patriotic purchase of a “new Government Cookie Flyer” would be more meaningful. In “The Imperative Mood,” giving orders to others—“Fall back and regroup”—leads less to power than to rumination.
Padgett Powell’s language is both lofty and low-down, his tone cranky and heartfelt, exuberant and inconsolable. His characters rebel against convention and ambition, hoping to maintain their very sanity by doing so. Even the most hilarious or fantastical stories in CRIES FOR HELP, VARIOUS ring gloriously, poignantly, true.
Padgett Powell has taught at the University of Florida MFA program for 25 years. For his seven books, which have been translated into ten languages, he has won the Whiting Foundation Award, the Pushcart Prize, the James Tait Black Prize, and the American Academy Prix de Rome; his novel EDISTO was a finalist for the National Book Award. His writing has has appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, Esquire, and The New Yorker.