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

3.9 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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 ) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Playful and profound, The Interrogative Mood is a bebop solo of a book in which every sentence is a question. In it acclaimed novelist Padgett Powell—a writer once touted as the best of his generation by Saul Bellow—force us to consider our core beliefs, our most cherished memories, our final views on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In fictionas in life, there may be no easy answers—but The Interrogative Mood is an exuberant book that leaves the reader feeling more alive.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1st edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061859419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061859410
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,180,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There's plenty to say about the fact that this book is composed entirely of questions--how this mode possibly turns the focus of the narrative upon the reader, or how it reverses the hierarchy of reading so that the narrator (interviewer?) becomes the dynamic engager of text--but the real thrill of this book was nothing less than the constructions of the sentences themselves, the rich levels of rhythm and counterpoint that are found and rediscovered in a sentence mode that often seems to be used merely as the gateway towards information rather than a joy unto itself.

Powell, though, has a mastery and joy of language that I haven't seen since his mentor, Donald Barthelme. The depth of material, the wonderfully acoustic and left-field range of subjects, make what may sound at first like an interesting exercise (but not something akin to novel) a plain joy to read. Just listen to these variations and rhythm:

If you had a dog small enough to be transported in the pocket of your coat, what would you name it? Do you think in terms of salvation or redemption? Do you appreciate the color changes of leavews in the fall or is that spectacle a tad too popularly sentimental for you? Have you ever been catheterized? Is there a set number of rings you like a phone to ring before you pick up? Does the noise made by corduroy pants irritate you? Do you eat flan?

But Powell is not only a master of variation, but of repetition:

Would you say that you are pro peanut brittle, anti peanut brittle, or would you say "I do not have a dog in the peanut-brittle fight"?

Powell's interrogative sentences are worthy of reading aloud, of friggin' laughing aloud at, of waylaying unsuspecting strangers with. There's little more than I can offer here--read the damn book, already.
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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is very cool. It goes beyond the gimmick of being composed entirely of questions, and ends up adding up to, if not a narrative, a unified, quirky, and entertaining world view. It's challenging too, if you want it to be. Many of the questions invite you to think hard about all sorts of things, and to relate the questions to your own life. Why only four stars? Well, it's not in the same class as The Great Gatsby (and doesn't pretend to be).
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