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The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Oct.)
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“Captivating and often glorious.” (New York Times Book Review, Paperback Row )

“Can you picture the rabble-rousing literary offspring of Flannery O’Connor and Donald Barthelme? Does the prospect of reading a lawlessly lyrical, comic novel composed entirely in The Interrogative Mood pique your curiosity?” (Vanity Fair )

“[Powell] has a rare ear for dialect and dialogue, a dedication to new ways of making words jump and dance and catch fire.” (New York Times Magazine )

“Offhanded, witty, original, and [an] altogether unique book. . . . Here, he’s less a writer in the school of John Casey or Peter Taylor than he is a member of the badass gang of Barry Hannah. The Interrogative Mood, serious and laughable, extends this legacy.” (Rick Moody )

“A supreme literary stunt.” (Jonathan Lethem )

“[A] peculiar and mind-popping experience. . . . Most novels take us away from ourselves, into the lives and minds of other people. The Interrogative Mood goes boldly in the other direction — and really, wouldn’t you like to talk about yourself?” (St. Petersburg Times )

“Hypnotic...Jazzy meditations that wrestle with life’s important questions.” (The New Yorker )

“Intimate and hilarious—the yearning is as powerful as all that is evoked and revealed in this precise and beautiful novel.” (Amy Hempel )

“A delightful stylistic flight, and as engrossing as staying up late at summer camp considering every goofy or brilliant question that comes into your head. Padgett Powell is one of the best writers in America, and one of the funniest, too.” (Ian Frazier )

“This book will sear the unlucky volumes shelved on either side of it. How it doesn’t, itself, combust in flames is a mystery to me. Padgett Powell has given us a wake-up call.” (Jonathan Safran Foer )

“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.” (Richard Ford )

“[This novel] represents superior value in a crumbling economy. Its pages do not tell a story—they tell thousands of stories, all of them starring you. Powell pokes and prods, soothes and slaps you. By the end you will feel as rich as Haroun al-Rashid on the thousandth night.” (Luc Sante )

“[An] ingenious provocation, devious and deeply hilarious riff, perfect party game, not to mention the most entertaining personality test ever devised. But above all it is another brilliant work of fiction, in some ways Powell’s best, by one of the few truly important American writers of our time.” (Sam Lipsyte, author of HOME LAND )

“You don’t so much read [The Interrogative Mood] as let it shove and jangle you into unexpected and highly pleasurable states of mind. Powell is a master of nouveau Southern lyricism....How this book works is beyond me, but, miraculously, it does.” (Village Voice )

“The book intrigues as it entertains… [Powell’s] questions and nonsequiturs will have you looking at your own life with a renewed sense of observation—and a healthy appetite for the absurd.” (5 stars) (Time Out New York )

“A remarkable collection of philosophical inquiries, stimulating either/ors and good-faith measures the gap between where we are as a species and where we belong. The Interrogative Mood demands to be read deliberately, for it is courageous and entertaining and interested in the essential mysteries of self and society.” (New York Times Book Review )

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061859419
  • ASIN: B0044KN0NG
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,653,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Padgett Powell is the author of five novels, including The Interrogative Mood and Edisto, which was nominated for the National Book Award. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Little Star, and The Paris Review, and he has received a Whiting Writers' Award and the Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Gainesville, Florida, where he teaches writing at MFA@FLA, the writing program of the University of Florida.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By mhpc on November 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whatever this book is or will be recognized to be, it is one of a kind. Literally every sentence in the book is a question. What amazed and delighted me is that it's actually a good read! Not just because it is witty, captivating, touching and beautifully written... there are more examples of all that. I was reminded more than once of Holden Caulfield. I could well believe that this is him badgering you with all these questions. (and in view of Salinger's easy access to lawyers I hasten to add that this is purely my own private impression, and in no way is the author responsible.)

I believe here is a new way of storytelling, and a very interesting and rewarding one. When I got over my initial surprise (and yes, impatience) I found that instead of sort of trying to answer the questions, my brain started to go with the flow... much as I would go along with a strong, intelligent and convincing voice, not unlike those of Nabokov's Charley Kinbote or Martin Amis' John Self. But even among these giants Powell more than holds his own. The Interrogative Mood literally forces your brain to make up its own 'story', and in that sense offers a truly different and new reading experience. Much more than previous lame experiments in 'interactive' storytelling, this book needs a good reader to make it happen, to make it complete. Be that reader and you will never forget it.
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48 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Dolnick on February 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
What's the point? Is it the reader's task to somehow make sense out of a series of random questions? Is novelty enough, or should a new form justify its existence by actually accomplishing something?

How did the writer know when to start a new paragraph? Isn't a paragraph supposed to have a topic sentence? Is it up to the reader to interpret the significance of the paragraph structure, too? If a paragraph on page 20 changed places with one on page 100, would you be able to tell? Can you think of any other book where you could do that and get away with it?

Amy Hempel, were you really referring to this book when you wrote that this is a "precise and beautiful novel"? In what way is this a "novel"? Do novels require characters and plot? What,exactly, did you find precise and beautiful?

Are you still interested in reading this book? Does your library have a copy? Would you really consider buying it?
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Stevenson on November 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading this book. Witty, ridiculous, droll, disarming, laugh-out-loud, original. A peek inside the author's mind: Ye gods, fella! I really loved it.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Eros Faust on October 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It would be tempting to think that just by experimenting with literary style, and using only questions to write an entire book, would be gimmicky and the effect of the gimmick would wear off. It doesn't. Powell has packed so many thoughts into his interrogatories that each question stimulates you to high quality thought.

I recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By MWA on February 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Do you like spending time reflecting about your childhood? Are your childhood memories good or bad? Even if you don't remember your childhood as being happy,do you still feel you learned or gained something from it? Do you read a wide variety of books on different subjects? Have you had rich and varied life experiences? Do you like thinking about things? Does internal dialog mean anything to you?
Then jump on in-this is the book you have been waiting for: they are few and far between.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By thing two on April 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was put off by the idea that someone could get away with writing a 'book' of just questions. As I started reading it I thought "What, no plot? No character development? How did this get published?" I can now answer this question ... because it's pretty darned funny!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By LuvHub on January 8, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What if I told you I loved this book for no particular reason?
Why should you care what I think? Will you lmk if my review pisses you off or pleases you? Are you a bird counter or a worm farmer?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Matthias Martin on July 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a book unlike any other I've read, a rousing success which involves every reader uniquely. Over the course of the 160+ pages, Powell asks thousands of questions from every category imaginable. I've come to know myself better through Mr. Powell's line of questioning. How do I stand in relation to the Potato? To love? To fear? To the banal details of my daily life? A methodology is difficult to distinguish, but whatever drives Mr. Powell's series of questions works well. The reader gets the sense that Mr. Powell is nostalgic for the past and has a simple set of principles by which he lives; as I subscribe to a similar worldview I felt a bond with Mr. Powell and could see his questions' validity. The analytical, scientific, metropolitan mind, however, may not see the value of the task of the book, and may not enjoy it as I did. For me the book was a fascinating labor, I couldn't read more than five pages at once, needing time to consider my agitated self-reflection. This book works both as a serious personal endeavor and a casual, fun road trip or down time activity.
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