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Cries for Help, Various

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  128 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Paperback, 182 pages
Published September 8th 2015 by Catapult
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Book Riot Community
Here's another writer who knocks it out of the park every time and could use more recognition! Mentored by Donald Barthelme, Padgett has emerged with his own distinct voice, which is weird and wonderful and so, so smart and funny. There are forty-four (!!!) great stories about loneliness, work, reflection and more.

Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books:
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Really??!? I'm not a great literary critic, but I am really wondering how much the publisher paid or the favors they had to call in to gain blurbs in support of this mess. I mean, really, the book's title should have been, PLEASE PASS THE CRACK PIPE AND LET ME HAVE ANOTHER HIT OF ACID. It was like reading a piece of modern art or free verse. I know he won a national award for a novel, but this collection does not give me much confidence to try it. There were a few interesting short stories, but ...more
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Uneven, but certain stories fucking nail you...I just like Powell a lot so even when he's not on prose-wise (and he doesn't seem to care at times-- I can dig it), I like choppiness anyways, seems his one hat-tip to realism or 'realism'...a lot of these stories seem to follow this path of disintegration (like the loops, disintegration... or how white light/ white heat just sort of breaks down at the end like a car that idles after you turn it off) being stories chopped up and put together but usu ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
To me, this is Powell's best book, an accolade that is ironic and a little silly, since this seems like a grab bag of random things that may never have even been collected except his recent surging popularity, in that it shows the range of his later years, which is in my opinion are his best, despite being very much Old Man and sometimes a little navel-gazing, in that they are less solipsistic than his meta middle work (like Mrs. Hollingsworth) while equally language-driven and experimental: a S ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Oct 04, 2015 marked it as i-want-money
Shelves: short-stories
Padgett Powell put in his place ::

"With Powell’s slapdash sexism comes a sense of gross entitlement that belongs in the past with other absurd ephemera." --Miriam W. Karraker reviews @Full Stop ::

Leroy Rodriguez
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Prince rides forth from castle Brautigan. Mighty in language, seeped in the power of a well examined life. His sorrows woven into a knapsack where he carries the magic of everyday sins and redemption. He stops for a while, bestowing gifts, then is gone, traveling along the nearest Trout stream he can find.
Great stuff from an excellent writer...
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
From the man behind the immortal The Interrogative Mood (and its attendant conceptual coup - one of those darned things that descend upon a writer and tell him or her "unfortunately you will never again be inspired by a better idea than me"). But. Hurray to no rules! Hurray to no discernible hierarchy of literary values! Hurray? Are you sure? Not totally, I guess, no. Is Powell a prodigious smoker of cannabis? I would say that if Powell is NOT a prodigious smoker of cannabis then his writing is ...more
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I received this as a Goodreads Giveaway *

Cries for Help, Various reads like a fever dream that I'm convinced if read aloud is positive alchemy. I strongly suspect Padgett Powell is functioning on another level of reality. And I can only imagine while reading these (very short) stories a shift has taken place in the universe making sense of the impossible and leaving the mundane trampled in its wake. Powell's writing style is the literary equivalent of a Vulcan mind meld.
I can see a lot of the s
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
Here's a great review of this book found on Full Stop

Sep 09, 2015 added it
Zero stars. Couldn't do it. This is just not my cup of tea. I tried but the stories didn't get any better.
Romany Arrowsmith
Oct 16, 2018 rated it did not like it
Frustrating in that Powell's reach extended his grasp by such a very narrow margin. He obviously has a sly eye for impressionistic metaphor, but it's as if he took all of Denis Johnson's occasional tendencies to overwrite and all of Lydia Davis' occasional tendencies to underwrite and said hey, why don't I mash these together and see what happens? And then jerked off on a copy of "Howl", I don't know, I was constantly disappointed when a moment of clarity was upended by either endless self-refer ...more
Pop Bop
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Lightning In A Bottle

Here's the thing about post-postmodern writers like Powell, and even the masters, like Donald Barthelme, who preceded them. If a piece works, it really works. It's funny, apt, deadpan, clever and satisfying. If it doesn't work, then all of the craft and effort and skill at the author's command isn't going to save the piece. So it is here.

All of the pieces are brief; a few pages at most. All are based on some quirky or unusual premise. Most of them do work, at least for me. T
Justin Martin
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Absolutely stunning work here - guerrilla storytelling. Some of the ideas that Powell commits to here - a cycle of stories about former Russian leader Yelstin out on the town with a nuclear suitcase, a story where Charles Dickens and Janis Joplin attend the same gradeschool class - would be so stupid if they weren't done with a steely confidence and a throbbing earnest heart. Points off for deep misogyny in a ton of stories, and a tendency to over-tread some monologues - those downsides are rela ...more
Jd Escobedo
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Imperative Mood is probably the best thing I've read in a few years.
"Consider getting a lawyer so you can call him and ask him to survey your entire situation and discover if you are good for successful litigation against anyone and suggest that you do not want to die not having lived a full life and sued someone"
Dec 20, 2018 added it
Shelves: no-can-do
I don't always "get" some types of writing but can usually find something to appreciate. Not so with this one. I just felt very grossed out and irritated that I was continuing to try and read this, when it felt like the author was perhaps playing a trick on me and this wasn't actual writing at all.
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
I can appreciate the dark humor here, but the absurdity of some of these stories verges on sloppy and tossed-off to me. After having read several hard-hitting books by women (mostly of color) recently, I couldn't help but feel put off--jokey alienation feels like the domain of the privileged white male sometimes.
Catherine Mincy
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it
While I can enjoy brief moments when Powell’s brilliance entertains me, for the most part, my mind is not sufficiently twisted to appreciate his writing.
Brad Erickson
Jun 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
If this is what passes for good writing these days, we're in trouble...Either that, or I'm an idiot. I did not understand a single one of these "stories."
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: powell
2 jan 16, kindle, #13 fom powell for me, pile of stories, 44 was it? first one "horses"...begins: the other horse traders are over there in the 7-eleven. sounds familiar. know i read another had to do with horses, horse wrestling or rustling, banditos maybe. ummm. there's a tin man.

3 jan 16, finished. 5 oh 5 ay em. waking up at 2 2-30. i am not looking forward to the time change...what is it? spring forward? fall back? i think so. fall forward does not sound right. spring back? went and dumped
Thing Two
This is my fifth Powell attempt. I stumbled on to him when he published The Interrogative Mood. Once I got going with that book, I really enjoyed it. Then I tried Mrs. Hollingsworth's Men, Typical: Stories, and You & Me: A Novel - not as enjoyable.

Powell takes work. It's obvious he's talented, but he's difficult. There are stories in this collection that had me howling with laughter--the kind where you try to explain to your neighbor why you're hysterically laughing, and it just doesn't come ou
Anthony Crupi
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's probably a matter of oversimplification, of dumbing down, to characterize Padgett Powell as a southern-fried Donald Barthelme, but a) close enough and b) wouldn't be the first time I've dumbed in any direction, down, up, sideways, diagonal.
A representative paragraph that helps illustrate what Powell's getting after here, in his third collection of stories, follows. Bear in mind that the speaker is a grade-school Charles Dickens speaking to his classroom inamorata, Janis Joplin:
"…you do not
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own
Won this book in a Goodreads giveaway!

Well. I really did not like this book, but it didn't deserve one star. The problem was it was too poetic. I don't mean that in a beautiful-descriptive sense. I mean each story was poem-like. In fact, I hesitate to call them stories or even vinnettes. Just poems with no white-space. Which isn't bad. Each clearly had a lot of thought put into them, and so much going on under the surface. the problem is that there was nothing going on on the surface, which mad
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Entering a Padgett Powell story is like waking up no idea where you are. Sometimes a conversation is already underway, sometimes you find yourself in the dark where all you can make out at first is a knife, gradu in the thumb notches. Maybe disorienting at first, but Powell quickly comforts you, even if in an uncomfortable way, rolling around a word or image that may have felt familiar at one time, but you learn quickly it has a certain use for the confines of this story and this story alone. Bu ...more
Terry Pearson
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
At times I felt a bit manic reading Mr. Powell's short stories and I began to wonder if all his stories would hit me as nonsensical. That wasn't the case. The further I got into it, I found myself really enjoying these stories, perhaps because at times they are like my thoughts, random.

I don't know that this book is for everyone but I'm glad I read it.
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
I felt a bit insane reading this book! Sometimes really funny, but often nonsensical to the point of being boring. Ramblings of little consequence. And a little much with all the 'firm brown girls' sexist racist bs. But I did like the story with young Janis Joplin & Charlie Dickens and the first one called Horses. ...more
Ralph Kleinman
May 26, 2016 rated it liked it
I loved "Edisto" when it first came out, and I was hoping that this book would give me the same buzz. I liked and respected it, but didn't love it at all. It's a collection of many Barthelme-like short stories. Sone of them made me laugh and/or moved me, but more of them seemed empty or merely clever.
Catherine  Mustread
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read "Janis and Dickens," a very funny and imaginative short story about what would happen if Janis Joplin and Charles Dickens had been in the same 3rd grade class. Information available on Selected Shorts podcast at ...more
Andrew Coltrin
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book of odd short stories is perfect for transit reading. One story gets done before you arrive at your bus stop. And if you transfer, you can read another story. The stories are weird, and sometimes a bit grotesque, but that's okay if you like that sort of thing. And generally I do. I'm proud to add this title to my bookshelf. I might even lend it to my dad.
Sean Kinch
Some stories here will remind readers of his recent books YOU & ME and THE INTERROGATIVE MOOD; others sound a lot like pieces from his earlier collection TYPICAL. All of them could have been written only by Powell. Start "The New World" and "The Imperative Mood," and then read all the rest. ...more
Vincent Eaton
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Oh so much fun. Dingbat whacko prose and viewspoint. Studied under him in my only trip to a Literary Conference, and he was grumpy, witty, interested when not unavailable in his uber masculinity mood. He has found another gear in his late-literary fiction phase.
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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

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“Today we want to glue some wood to some wood. We will get all the surfaces clean with sanding and then by wiping the wood with our coarse brown paper toweling, which itself is limp wood. We will apply the good wood glue, which is the color of banana pudding, to both surfaces, liberally, and align the pieces and press them together. Before the final fit it is important to slide the pieces back and forth just a bit, or twist them a bit, depending on the configuration of the pieces; this lateral friction, as it were, is to displace small pockets of air that may be trapped in the glue if the pieces of wood merely come together head-on. Once we have a good airless fit with plenty of squeezeout we should wipe the excess glue with more paper and clamp the pieces firmly together or effect a clamping by means of weight upon the pieces. Clamping can also be effected by tying the pieces together, often with bungies. The pressure should be that of a very firm handshake. Wood being married to wood likes a good handshake. If there is more squeezeout it may be addressed after this clamping or the dried excess glue may be sanded off later. You can use your anytime minutes on small squeezeout. If one of you would go get me a Musketeers the morning would be better. Some of you know how I put a Musketeers in a Dr. Pepper and how the acid in the Dr. Pepper will make the Musketeers into something like a very tasty sea slug. Which if it goes too long though it can be difficult to lift it out in one piece. I call that the Drooping Musketeer and I don’t really like it, I don’t. At a certain point you have to just stir the Musketeer into the Dr. Pepper. A Baby Ruth looks like a turd. A Butterfinger is wont to explode. Never recap your Dr. Pepper if you are using Butterfinger. I must tell you that because the Surgeon General won’t. The cleaning industry tells you not to combine its stuff but the candy industry does not. If there is no caution statement on a candy bar telling you that it is bad for your health in several ways, chief among them obesity and type II diabetes, it is not finally surprising that they not tell you that under certain conditions the candy unit will explode and perhaps blow your pop bottle apart and blind you, or worse. The good wood glue we use here is pretty set up in an hour. Tomorrow we will start in on the router. The router is essential but many a one thinks it is just some kind of dangerous cosmetic tool. It is not. Get your wood and get to gluing and stop wasting time.” 0 likes
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