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Edisto (Edisto #1)

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  605 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Simons Everson Manigault ('You say it 'Simmons.' I'm a rare one-m Simons") lives with his mother, an eccentric professor (known as the Duchess), on an isolated and undeveloped strip of South Carolina coast. Convinced that her son can be a writer of genius, the Duchess has immersed Simons in the literary classics since birth ("Like some kids swat mobiles, I was to thumb pag ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 15th 1985 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1984)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John BerendtThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk KiddThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
Books that evoke the South
77th out of 258 books — 121 voters
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. StedmanTo the Lighthouse by Virginia WoolfThe Lighthouse by P.D. JamesThe Black Tower by P.D. JamesThe Lighthouse at the End of the World by Jules Verne
37th out of 70 books — 55 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,283)
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After nearly 2 months of trying to plod through this book and develop some sort of connection with it, I give up. Perhaps it's the erratic narration, the rapidly changing scenarios or a bunch of new characters appearing on every alternate page and scattering in the next one like headless chickens. Whatever it is I will have to remember that Padget Powell's brand of Southern Literature just doesn't work for me, finalist for the National Book Award or not.
I would rather spend my reading time exper

This character is a near perfect creation even though Simons is twelve and has a bigger vocabulary than Ernest Hemingway. Powell's writing inspires trust and the reader doesn't question that this boy talks this way. His mother, the Doctor, wants Simons to be a great literary star. He's supposed to be writing a novel at her request. His mother drinks at home while his father, the Progenitor, has left after a disagreement with the Doctor over how to raise Simons. Soon, a surrogate takes his place
This is a book that I will read again in ten, five, or maybe two years. It was beautifully written from the perspective of a young boy growing up in a small town around the Prohibition Era. I can't say I understood all of it, but it was beautiful. The plot can be disjointed in a way vaguely reminiscnet of Steinbeck's writing. I will come back to Edisto to visit its beaches, the Baby Grand, and the strange world of this boy.

(After rereading, 1/31)
The writing is still as lovely as the first time I
Unusual prose, some of it blistering. And by "some of it" I mean two sentences. The rest is annoyingly self-important blather. Sure, the author flouts convention. But convention is there for a reason, in this case READABILITY.
What seems inventive and fresh in snippets quickly becomes grating. Grating like that person behind you in the movie theatre eating malted milk balls one after another, chewing furiously. Grating like the woman in the cubicle next to you at work scratching her head with th
For years I’d heard about folks interested to get a first edition copy of this novel, so I’d assumed it was a classic. Written in the time before Goodreads, it does not have a long history of reviews there, but I trust many members have read this classic since it first came out in 1985. Republished now as an ebook under the aegis of Open Road Media, this little gem gets a new airing.

A young boy grows up in his single mother’s beachside home in South Carolina. She works all day as a professor so
Sep 11, 2011 Katherine rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Katherine by: Wall Street Journal
This book came from a list in the Wall Street Journal of best books about the south. It is the story of one summer in the life of an extremely bright, literate, 12 year old boy on the South Carolina coast. His parents are separated, his Mother seems completely negilent other than to surround him from birth with all the great works of literature. Seemingly out of nowhere a black man appears and is instantly installed as his substitute father figure. The two bond and adventure through the summer. ...more
It always concerns me when someone compares a book to Catcher in the Rye. It’s done too often and I’ve yet to find a book that truly measures up to Salinger’s classic. But I try and not let it put me off and to judge every book on its own merits. Of course now I’ve read Edisto I can see why people might want to compare it to Catcher in the Rye—they’re clearly wanting to compliment Powell on a job well done (and he has done a good job, no arguments there)—but it really doesn’t need to be compared ...more
I started this book years ago, but finally finished it this past week, very very glad I did. The comparisons to Catcher in the Rye are imprecise, but there's not really a better way to peg a story seen through the eyes/mind of a seethingly intelligent young man. Simons feels at once older and younger than HC, and is far less of a dipshit, because he knows how much he has to learn about the world and can admit that tenderness. The last 50 or so pages really take off--it turns out you need to read ...more
I tried...I really did, but this story just wasn't compelling enough for me. It didn't help that Powell's writing style is rather indirect. Definitely on the other end of the spectrum from Hemingway's flat, matter of fact prose. I don't have the energy to continually re-read passages to make sure that I understand what is happening.
Coming of age story set in the American South. Twelve-year-old Simons Everson Manigault, white, is living in Edisto, a small Carolina coastal town -- a black community -- in the early 1970s. Simons is white; his parents are separated, and his mother, known locally as the Duchess, bring onboard a black man, known as Taurus, to be male "influence" for her son, who she also surrounds with literature, encouraging him to write. Simon's thoughts about life make up this novel. The voice is unique, the ...more
Nov 28, 2007 Graceann rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nobody
Shelves: books-i-hated
It is as if this author took a creative writing course, and then decided that they were ready to do a novel. Every novelistic cliche is present here, and it's boring beyond belief. Don't waste your time.
I didn't get this story. It's about a very smart 12 year old boy who lives in the low country with his strange mother. It's summer and he visits his father. Didn't care for it.
Susan Swartwout
A surprising and superlative coming of age story combined with wonderful descriptions of Southern life. Simons, a young writer-in-training by his professor mother whom he calls The Doctpr, is mature beyond his years and sports an impressive vocabulary and viewpoint of the world. His sexual naiveté, explored through the lens of his otherwise worldly eyes, is humorous, charming, and often blunt. The plot is not a page turner, but the reactions of Simons to his parents' separation and ongoing battl ...more
I confess I'd never heard of this book or author until my own eccentric mother (shades of the Doctor?) dropped two mint copies of Edisto and Edisto Revisited on my coffee table last summer, along with a book on Mesopotamian mythology and a few other things I made her take with her when she left. I'm sure she picked them all up for a few cents at some estate sale or somewhere and I didn't really plan to read them until I was shuffling things around recently and noticed on the cover that Saul Bell ...more
May 16, 2012 Allison rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 8th grade & up
More often than not, if a book is set in the American South before 1970 and has a diverse collection of characters - I'm going to enjoy it. There are, however, plenty of times when folks just don't get the nuances right - or even are so far off-base that it's just pathetic (those books I usually don't finish and might even burn, oh my!). Well, Mr. Powell hit the mark and I really enjoyed Edisto.

Having been introduced to Mr. Powell's via his work The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?, I have to admit
Kyetra Belton
I was looking at books on NetGalley and Edisto caught my attentions. It is set in the South in the 1970's. I love books set in the South when they are written well and truthful. Edisto is one of those books.
The narrator is a twelve year old white boy named Simons. He lives with his mother, who surrounds him with literature and wants him to be a writer, and has an absent father. He is very bright and has an incredible vocabulary.He meets a mixed race man named Taurus, and is then immersed in the
Edisto is a coming of age story that draws a lot from Salinger in the voice of its intelligent, prickly protagonist. But Powell's interest in language, which will later become even more pronounced is what really separates him from the Salinger wannabes. In his more recent works, Powell plays a lot with the form of the novel. Mrs. Hollinghurst's Men only almost-barely had a plot. Edisto, like Mrs. Hollinghurst's Men, has a first person narration – voluble, rambling – but the narrative stays firml ...more
Powell crashed in on the literary world in a big way with this debut novel about a precocious young boy’s summer in Edisto, South Carolina. Nominated for the National Book Award, Edisto paved the way for Powell’s prolific career. If you get hooked on his writing, fear not! We have lots of Padgett in our library.
John Asher
The beautiful novel is among the most unforgettable novels I've had the joy to read. I made a remarkably poor choice of loaning my original hardback from an early run to someone, and have been looking for a replacement for months and was overjoyed to find a paperback copy a few days back in a used store.
The tone is different, but this one feels - to these eyes - more than a little like Ed McClanahan's great "The Natural Man." Similar protagonists - lost in youth, pretty certain to find their w
Mike Madden
A coming of age novel for the generation whatever-the-fuck-my-generation is called. Finally, a novel that allows a teenager to have a refreshing amount of emotional maturity and levity. It lacks the cynicism and of Joyce's 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' and Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye.'

American perspective is the main issue for Powell. How can an artist consider one's self so without exposure to the disparate cultures in America? It seems that, for me at least, that any literature t
Dry and funny. 12-yr-old protagonist/narrator, so things pass him by, but only barely, and he is amazingly honest about lying to himself (or denying some truths).
Just a fun read.
And, I'm not sure if this counts as a spoiler, since it doesn't give away any of the plot, but here is a culmination of sorts.
"I was, I am - I have to admit, that because my life is cloyed by practical plans and attainable hopes - I am white. Best thing to do, I figure, is to get on with it. [...] I had one of these whi
Pamela Denlinger
My backyard

Living on Hilton Head Island, not far from Edisto, I was eager to read this book. Would it have a Lowcountry flavor? Lowcountry characters? Could the story be told through the voice of a young boy? Oh my yes!
Apr 21, 2010 Eliza rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: novel
2/22/10: Edisto is often compared to Catcher in the Rye, as it is a story about a 12-year-old boy, written in the first person, about life and its mysteries (and adventures) But Simons Manigault is funnier, fresher, and more charming than Holden Caulfield, and coastal South Carolina, where Edisto is set (Edisto is the name of the town) is a fascinating place. Or at least Powell makes it sound that way. Simons is curious, wise, naive--eager to find answers to the big questions (which are, of cour ...more
my copy was signed by padgett at goehring's on 13th street, april 14th 1985. i guess this was padgett's m.f.a. at the university of houston, coached by donald barthelmew...i spell that right?

simons everson manigault, "a rare one-m simons", a kind of updated huck finn and all the characters in his life..."life is a time when you get pleasure until somebody get your ass. and one of the ways to prolong pleasure is to not chop up time with syllables." the boys at the baby grand...maybe kidd rock re
This book is less a story than it is a character and cultural study. The book centers upon the coming of age of a twelve year old boy that lives in the rural low country of South Carolina with his mother, whose character can be best explained by her nickname "The Duchess" and his idolized black father figure known as Taurus. The story begins nowhere and ends at the same place, but is wonderfully told and does give some insight to a clever and sensitive young boys journey toward manhood. I suppos ...more
The most SOUTHERN book I've read in a long long time, and probably written just before the author and I were calling the University of Houston home. Great voice (esp. when considering that this was his first book), intriguing main character--a 12 year old kid whose psychologist mom is having him write about his exploits as a white kid in a primarily African-American environment--Edisto being in South Carolina. In fact, the voice was extraordinary for a while and then got old--nothing all that ex ...more
Simone Roughouser
another quick summer fiction. i love this novella-length book. padgett powell's writing style does not stop for you, it is rolling down hill right off the bat, you jump on and race along with it. i love how much he tests the limits of language, how he tells a story and creates an atmosphere with so many words and punctuation marks missing. the main character and narrator is a precocious rich white kid who hangs with black adults on the wrong side of the get the feeling he is maybe i ...more
Comparisons to Holden Caulfield and "Catcher in the Rye" are inevitable: a precocious prepubescent boy narrating his own coming-of-age story. But this boy, despite his dysfunctional parents, is not quite so jaded as Holden and, ultimately, more likeable. That said, some readers will have trouble with the flowing, almost string of consciousness, style and the dialect. The style reminds me of TR Pearson's "Short History of a Small Place" -- Pearson's tale set in North Carolina, this story set in S ...more
Chuck Reece
One of the best Southern novels of the late 20th century. Not to be missed.
John McCarthy
Beautiful coming of age story of a twelve-year-old white boy living in a black community in a small South Carolina coastal town in and around 1972. His parents are separated. His eccentric mother is a teacher known as "The Duchess" in the black community and his father is a lawyer. She wants him to be a writer while his father just wants him to play baseball. He, Simons Everson Manigault, is just trying to figure out life. He eventually comes to appreciate his parents despite their faults. There ...more
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Padgett Powell is the author of four novels, including Edisto, which was nominated for the National Book Award. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review, Esquire, and other publications, as well as in the anthologies Best American Short Stories and Best American Sports Writing. He lives in Gainesville, Florida, where he teaches writing at MFA@FLA, the writing program ...more
More about Padgett Powell...
The Interrogative Mood You & Me: A Novel Typical: Stories Aliens of Affection: Stories Edisto Revisited

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“Potato salad in the South is nothing less than the principal smuggler of cholesterol into the festive, careless heart. It is pure poison beneath the facade of bland puritan propriety. It is the food of choice at any food banquet of smiling relatives who celebrate tacitly among themselves the dark twining of two of their promising youth.” 1 likes
“A whole section of the family tree is pruned and primped and assessed as I politely sit there. Overall, I detect that the tree is fine: its leaves gently turning in the breeze of life. We have no scandal blight, no limb-wrenching storms of fate, no bad apples. I wonder what it is like when the Kennedys sit around for a disk check like this.” 1 likes
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