The Interrogative Mood

The Interrogative Mood

by Padgett Powell


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“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.”

—Richard Ford

The Interrogative Mood is a wildly inventive, jazzy meditation on life and language by the novelist that Ian Frazier hails as “one of the best writers in America, and one of the funniest, too.” A novel composed entirely of questions, it is perhaps the most audacious literary high-wire act since Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine or David Foster Wallace’s stories; a playful and profound book that, as Jonathan Safran Foer says, “will sear the unlucky volumes shelved on either side of it. How it doesn’t, itself, combust in flames is a mystery to me.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061859410
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/29/2009
Pages: 164
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.25(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Padgett Powell is the author of six novels, including Edisto, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and two collections of stories. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's, and the Paris Review, as well as in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Sports Writing. He has received a Whiting Writers' Award, the Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He lives in Gainesville, Florida, where he teaches at MFA@FLA, the writing program of the University of Florida.

What People are Saying About This

Luc Sante

“[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.”

Jonathan Lethem

“A supreme literary stunt.”

Sam Lipsyte

“[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.”

Ian Frazier

“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.”

Amy Hempel

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

Richard Ford

“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.”

Rick Moody

“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.”

Jonathan Safran Foer

“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.”

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The Interrogative Mood 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
This is an odd yet fascinating book as there are no declarative sentences. Instead every line is a question that goes deeper and deeper in profundity and acerbity. Starting with a childlike innocence re "Are your emotions pure?" and asking seemingly silly questions like "Would you eat a monkey? and ending with the seemingly finish to a relationship between the interrogator and a silent responder (can that be readers?) whose lack of resonances implies much with "Are you leaving now? Intriguing with a weird psychological spin, recommend those who appreciate a deep internal look at one's self, answer the questions; just do it over a few weeks or your loved ones will ask are you crazy especially at $21.99? Hopefully yours do not answer that. Harriet Klausner
blackjacket on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Have you ever read a book composed entirely of questions? Would you consider reading such a book? If I told you that there is indeed such a book called The Interrogative Mood : a novel? by Padgett Powell and that is contains nothing but 164 pages of questions, would that further entice you to read it? What if I quoted the opening paragraph?¿Are your emotions pure? Are your nerves adjustable? How do you stand in relation to the potato? Should it still be Constantinople? Does a nameless horse make you more nervous or less nervous than a named horse? In your view, do children smell good? If before you know, would you eat animal crackers? Could you lie down and take a rest on the sidewalk? Did you love your mother and father, and do Psalms do it for you? If you are relegated to last place in every category, are you bothered enough to struggle up? Does your doorbell ever ring? Is there sand in your craw? Could Mendeleyev place you correctly in a square on a chart of periodic identities, or would you resonate all over the board? How many push-ups can you do?¿ (p.1)Still not convinced that this is a book worth your time? What if said that, given most good literature is mostly about an author asking questions of his or her reader, then a book full of questions for the reader to ponder is surely this uncontroversial idea taken to its logical extreme?If I employ nothing questions to review a book that is nothing but questions, is that tribute, plagiarism or just annoying? Am I doing the author a disservice? Are you now convinced to read The Interrogative Mood? Can I quote another passage; one that I feel better shows the surprising depth of the book?¿Do you like to listen to weather broadcasts or do you just like to see, in uncoached anticipation, weather happen? Will you be saddened that you life has been minor if in fact it has been minor? Is there anything you might do today that would distinguish you from being just a vessel of consumption and pollution with a proper presence in the herd? Have you ever spent time in the house of a recently deceased old woman and seen her Siamese-cat needlepoints and her baking supplies and her shoes and her inspirational sayings on the wall? Do you realize that people move on steadily, even arguably bravely, unto the end, stunned and more stunned, and numbed and more numbed, by what has happened to them and not happened to them? Have you ever heard the saying, Life is a sandwich of activity between two periods of bed-wetting¿ (p. 28)Does a book composed of questions, and nothing but questions, end up saying more about the author or the reader? Wouldn¿t you like to find out?
alexrichman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A bizarre book that's formed completely from questions. Most reviews comment on how touching some of the more existential enquiries are, but I was struck instead by the book's off-the-wall humour, full of non-sequiters (well, the whole thing's basically one after another), that reminded me a lot of the videogame Portal. I loved reading this, with the author deftly pulling of the trick of seeming original rather than reliant on a gimmick.
bragan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, I can answer the question in the subtitle: No. This is not a novel. I'm not sure what the hell this is, other than that it's an endless series of questions. Mundane questions. Bizarre questions. Philosophical questions. Personal questions. Random questions. Repetitive questions. Thought-provoking questions. Nonsense questions. Trivia questions. Questions that give odd, incomplete little glances into the asker's mind. Question after question, on and on and on, with no obvious rhyme or reason to any of it. It's a stupid idea for a book. It should be almost unreadable. And yet, it's weirdly compelling. I mean, really, really compelling. Something about it just captured my attention and dragged me along with half-formed answers tumbling over themselves in my mind in a breathless internal dialog: "Yes. No. Yes, but it was years ago. Somewhere in-between. Does that even mean anything? I dunno, I'm more of a cat person than a dog person. Why are you so interested in furniture polish? Eww, no! Hey, that's a really good question; I think you're on to something worth pondering here. You already asked me that before. Maybe. Wait-- what?" This goes on for 164 pages. Admittedly, they're small pages. But by the end of it I felt tired, and rather like my brain had just been mugged. I'm still not sure quite what happened, but it was certainly one of the most interesting reading experiences I've ever had.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the 'grown-up' version of the 'would you rather' books that are popular right now. I bought this book for my husband after hearing a review on NPR. It is simply pages of thought provoking questions. He took it on a recent vacation and would read a page or two and pose a question to me. The questions are as mild as 'Do you have an friends?' to as complicated as last meals prior to execution - need to read the framework for this question yourself. If you really want to get to know someone, this is a conversation starter and potentially relationship ender.
duchenf More than 1 year ago
I am currently reading the book. It is interesting, but I find I can only handle a few questions at a time. I will finish it, but it is not the quick read that I expected.