THE INTERROGATIVE MOOD is a wildly inventive, jazzy meditation on life and language—in which every sentence is a question:

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?

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.  It’s the kind of book that makes you want to read passages aloud and leaves you looking at the world with fresh eyes.


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.