Padgett Powell is the author of six novels and three story collections. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Little Star, and the Paris Review, and he is the recipient of the Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and the James Tait Black Prize in fiction, the UK's oldest literary award.
INDIGO: Armwrestling, Snake Saving, and Some Things in Between
“When asked for a list of the best American writers of the younger generation, I invariably put Padgett Powell at the top.”
Padgett Powell is the author of nine works of fiction, making INDIGO: Armwrestling, Snake Saving, and Some Things in Between, his very first, very welcome collection of nonfiction. "Cleave Dean" (previously published in Harper’s) takes Padgett to Sweden and the World Armwrestling Federation Championships, where Dean, a Georgian, is hoping to regain his previous title. The closing piece, which first appeared in Garden & Gun, charts Padgett's lifelong fascination with the endangered Indigo snake, "a thinking snake," and his obsession with seeing one in the wild.
As for some things in between: Powell turns his pen to consider artists like Grace Paley, William Wegman, and Flannery O’Connor; mulls over why he’s been writing about a certain Texas dog named Spode for twenty-two years; and generously offers the reader a recipe for “Using the Squirrel God Gave You.” In all, his surrealistic and comical terrain is grounded by a preoccupation with longing, fear, work, loneliness, and cultural nostalgia. Every piece deftly delivers the same idiosyncratic brilliance that has earned Powell praise from the likes of Donald Barthelme, Gary Shteyngart, John Jeremiah Sullivan, and many more. Pete Dexter, author of DEADWOOD and SPOONER, will provide the collection’s introduction.
“Edisto is a startling book, full of new sights, sounds, and ways of feeling. Mr. Powell weaves wonderful tapestries from ordinary speech; his people, black and white, whether speaking to each other or past each other, tell us things that we never heard before. The book is subtle, daring, and brilliant.”
*National Book Award Finalist*
A novel that has drawn comparisons with the work of J. D. Salinger, Truman Capote, and Flannery O’Connor, EDISTO centers on one Simons Everson Manigault, a twelve-year-old possessed of a vocabulary and sophistication way beyond his years and a preadolescent bewilderment with the behavior of adults. These include his mother, who is known as the Duchess, and his enigmatic father-surrogate, Taurus. Imbued with a strong sense of place—an isolated strip of South Carolina coast called Edisto—Padgett Powell’s 1984 debut novel is “truly remarkable . . . It reminds one of The Catcher in the Rye, but it’s better—sharper, funnier, more poignant.” (Walker Percy)
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CRIES FOR HELP, VARIOUS
“Read, obsessively re-read, and then carry around all fall in backpockets or totebag as talismanic accessory advertising your smart-cool weirdness.”
*An O Magazine Pick for “16 Books to Start 2016 Right”*
*An NPR Pick for Best Books of 2015*
*A Chicago Tribune Shortlist Pick for Best Books 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.
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ALIENS OF AFFECTION
“Powell’s stories are . . .gleefully non-narrative, aggressively stylized, linguistically inventive, and often very funny.”
—James Hynes, The Washington Post Book World
The nine stories collected here are hilarious, wrenching, pessimistic, buoyant, low-down, high-strung, and impeccably written, and freely bend the conventions of short fiction. Peopled with eccentric characters who routinely reject that bland conformity of modern life, ALIENS OF AFFECTION is provoking — and often very funny — now-classic literary fiction from one of America’s most inventive writers.
“In all of the stories there is the good humor and humane intelligence that make Powell’s work so appealing” (A. O. Scott, The New York Times).
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THE INTERROGATIVE MOOD: A Novel?
“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 Powell’s: immensely readable, ingenious, witty, and ultimately important-feeling in a way you can’t quite describe but don't need to.”
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.
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YOU & ME: A Novel
“This book is a rare thing: experimental writing with powerful narrative drive. I finished it feeling quieted—by its melancholic probing—and exhilarated by its style.”
—John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Blood Horses and Pulphead
*Winner of the 2012 James Tait Black Prize for Fiction*
Padgett Powell, author of the acclaimed THE INTERROGATIVE MOOD and “one of the few truly important American writers of our time” (Sam Lipsyte), returns with a hilarious Southern send-up of Samuel Beckett’s classic Waiting for Godot.
Truly a master of envelope-pushing, post-postmodern American fiction, in a class with Nicholas Baker and Lydia Davis, Powell brilliantly blends the sublime, the trivial, and the oddball in YOU & ME: A NOVEL, as two loquacious gents on a porch discuss all manner of subjects, from the mundane to the spiritual to the downright ridiculous.
At once outrageously funny and profound, YOU & ME: NOVEL is yet another brilliant, boundary-bursting masterwork, proving once again that, “there are few writers who understand both the beauty and the absurdity of language as well as Padgett Powell” (Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang) and that, “Padgett Powell is one of the best writers in America, and one of the funniest, too” (Ian Frazier).