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The Interrogative Mood

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,189 Ratings  ·  274 Reviews
“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 compos
Hardcover, 165 pages
Published September 29th 2009 by Ecco (first published 2009)
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(Goddamnit, Goodreads, will you ever give us the half-star option? Why do I have to specify that this was better than a three-star read but isn't quite a four-star one either, thus negating whatever rating I choose by at least half a degree?)

Would you concede that the failure is on the reader's rather than the writer's part if the reader began a novel with an inward groan regarding the page count? Does the reader deserve whatever lukewarm karmic smackdown comes with approaching a novel with stub
Mike Puma
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Please see Message 2 for my review.
Dec 02, 2009 rated it liked it
How many goodreaders does it take to screw in a light bulb? Who would you rather have next to you in a fight, Howard or Powell? Would goodreads be completely dead during the day if it weren't for alt-tab?

Will "LOL!!!!GOOD BUDDY" comments ever get old? What are the chances Brian will see "New Moon" this weekend? Why is it when you tell someone to hurry they all of a sudden move slower? How many books do you bring on a road trip? Do squirrels like cheese? Why are all my goodreaders so great?

Nov 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: mussolini
Shelves: american
This is by far one of the worst things I have ever read. I do want to put in a caveat, Powell actually says these were not intended to be a novel, that was added to sell the book. The problem still being as Hitchens tells us, you have to write a book to back up your title. So we are forced to evaluate it as a novel not a a piece of active critical theory (in which context with would still be crap just a different kind of crap).

Also, I am at the moment slightly drunk so I apologize in advance for
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Aug 12, 2012 marked it as i-want-money
Recommends it for: ?!!
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: ?
How are you feeling today?:: pissed off? angry? offended? shorted? irritated? run-over? step’d upon? used up? numb? it’ll pass? hopeful? cheery? never been better? truckin? chuff? like a dandelion meadow? analyze’d? sleepy? time to read? filthy? gotta be something better? where’s a couch when I need one? breathe? what time is it? when will this begin if it won’t start? when I was a kid....? please stop asking? allegiant? won’t take it no more? what does it all mean? like a sisyphus? like a griff ...more
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Strictly, speaking, this isn’t a ‘proper’ book. As everybody by now knows. Or, rather it is to literature what Jackson Pollock is to art: inane, insane – in the main; and non germaine, but hey: I won’t complain.

167 pages of questions. Such as, ‘if you were fighting in a spice war, which spice would you fight for?’
First reaction: Spices? Spice? What the fuck? Do I not eat my chicken tikka massala (which has them all), without a murmur? Now I have to deconstruct it? What happens when I isolate MS
Jan 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I won't pose a question about this book in imitation of its primary gimmick. Suffice it to say you'll be tempted to. I will, however, laude Powell's endeavor. Composed entirely of questions, this book eschews straight-forward narrative and reads more like a clever list from McSweeney's than a traditional novel. But, novel it is. There's a protagonist (albeit a highly ephemeral one) and conflict abounds. However, Powell's true accomplishment lies not in pursuit of answers but in the questions the ...more
Aug 17, 2017 added it
Did a review of this book here:
Catherine O'Sullivan
Deriding this book for being gimmick is a facile response. It's a novel (in the loosest sense of the word) written entirely in questions, calling it a gimmick is a little beside the point. Of course it's a "gimmick", in one sense: discussions of its form dominant the majority of the reviews about it. But what matters to me, and what I think is more interesting, is discussing whether the books conducts itself well, and whether or not the inescapable fact of its peculiar style overrides the pleasu ...more
Jun 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
This is a book entirely of questions, which seems like it would get old quickly, but it didn't at all. It made me think about random things, laugh out loud, and remember things I haven't thought about in years. Like Katie said, there were so many questions that I was so excited to answer. "Yes, I have used the word extrapolate in a non mathematical way!" "Yes, I would be comfortable taking a bus in a country where I didn't know the language!" "Yes, I do remember those children's beads that ...more
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: black-comedy
Like David Markson’s wonderful late fictions, Powell takes you on a similar reckless adventure in pure thought and language. Just questions after questions but every page and every line is remarkable; it is wickedly funny and deeply effecting in ways many more structure bound fictions are rarely. Powell along with Markson takes the spirit from Beckett and Barthelme and crafts darkly funny, evocative fictions, crafted in impeccable language that without even a hint of plot keep you turning pages ...more
Oct 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
They say good writing asks more questions than it answers. This only asks questions, leaving readers to only connect (and laugh a lot). Sometimes it sounds like self-interrogation, other times like direct address to the reader, other times like a high-brow Seinfeld routine ("Did you ever notice . . .?"), other times like a really long questionnaire for a comphrehensive online profile re: everything you know and remember and never knew and forgot. The ideal stocking stuffer for the good-natured l ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Ok, this was probalby the weirdest thing I've ever "read". 166 pages of questions. Nothing but questions. Every sentence is posed as a question. Some having to do with the last sentence or question posed but the majority do not.

Seems like it would get old quickly, right? And I will be honest, I could only handle this in approx. 5 page spurts. I just kept falling asleep on it or losing focus. Other times, it was light and airy to just read questions, questions and more questions. I have highligh
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Thank you to my lovely sister Katie who gave me this book for Christmas. I remember hearing about it on NPR, thinking the premise was interesting (a book made entirely of questions), but wondering how it could carry out for a whole book. There's no narrative arc to be found and no real unifying theme that I could figure out, but it was fun and interesting nonetheless. Sometimes I would try to answer every question as I read it, but that became overwhelming after a while, so I started to focus on ...more
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the funniest book I've ever read [the first quarter], and one of the most serious. The author seems to condemn modern times and the 20th Century Man [&21st], and long for a simpler saner world, which brings to mind the Kinks' song of the same name. The questions seem to state that we all fail to ask ourselves, or think about, some of the most important questions of living and what makes a quality worthwhile life - fun, and beauty and wild abandon included. It portrays the complexitie ...more
Sabra Embury
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm really not trying to be crude, but I've had this book on a shelf in my bathroom for about a year now and it's brought me so much entertainment.

I've read other reviews which claim this is the worst "novel" they've ever read. I wouldn't call it a novel (and I think someone who dismisses it based on the obvious fact that it doesn't resemble a novel, all it does is ask questions, blah, blah, is trying to be a grump). It's more aphoristic...a quilt with character, a clever way to promote introsp
You might think a book made entirely of questions sounds dumb or gimmicky, but the durable Mr. Powell obliterates that notion early on with killer sentence after killer sentence. Sure--it doesn't really amount to a real novel but the focus here is the voice. And man--what a voice it is! It's wild, taunting, playful, and erudite. And since the most used word in the book is "you" it's easy to feel included in this mad experiment. I was constantly amused and amazed while reading this, finding passa ...more
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell. Period.

Why such declarative fervor? Because this is a book that pulled and moved me through the gamut of human experience without a single ending punctuation aside from a question mark. (What?) It’s a gimmick, but it was so much fun for me to participate in the play of it. It expects participation! The narrator asks the reader to double-check her knowledge, consider her assumptions, pick a side on issues both frivolous and all-important - he enli
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Was it wrong of me to expect more from a 160-page book of only questions? Did I waste my time? Is it nothing more than a glorified version of that "drinking game" we all played in college or the sketch from Whose Line Is It Anyway? Have you ever watched old Whose Line Is It Anyway episodes? Do you know what you're missing? Am I happy or sad to read my first novelty book I didn't like? Should I stop now before writing in this voice drives me crazy? Do you like goat cheese?
Marjorie Elwood
Mar 01, 2010 rated it did not like it
Hated it.

Actually, all I could do was skim about random five pages before giving up. It's a grouping of questions, many of which seem fairly daft, arranged in paragraphs. Near as I could tell, the questions in each group don't have anything in common with each other.

It's hailed as a literary feat, but I'm obviously missing something....
Thing Two
May 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Thing Two by: NYT Review
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!

There's no point to this book, except to expand your mind and make you ... question. Enjoy!
Feb 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
Why doesn't GoodReads have a minus-star rating? Why did I think I was stubborn enough to read every question in this thing? Why didn't I just read pages 1 and 164 and be done w/ it? How did I make it as far as page 68? How can the author of Edisto inflict this failed postmodern trickery on the reader? How could he stand composing it?
Sarah Booth
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and thought provoking

Powell wrote a novel of questions ranging from flippant to fanciful all the way to profound. Some were surreal and others very specific drawing the reader to examine his own life experiences and motives. Looking for a book to make you laugh and think? Here is an exercise in philosophy and searching your own memory for answers.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A phenomenological delight. My husband and I dipped in and out of this book over several weeks, reading it to each other and stopping to discuss some of the questions.
Jul 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: misc-fiction, humor
Certainly one of the strangest books I have read in a long time. It's full title is The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?; but as to this first (of oh so many questions), I have to say no, this is not a novel. There is no fiction here, no plot, no characters. What there is is a (seemingly) endless and (largely) random list of questions, and nothing but questions, some deep, some funny and some just "huh?" But taken together, they constitute the world's funniest, most disturbing and overall strangest ...more
Nov 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: so-glad-i-read
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 ...more
Mar 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: disappointing
This book is made up entirely of questions. This could have been interesting. It wasn't.

"When did you last have a piece of Melba toast?"

Author, you are wasting my time.

"Could Mendeleyev place you correctly in a square on a chart of periodic identities, or would you resonate all over the board?"

Now if you don't think about it for even a micro-second, this has the air of being deep. And if you recognize Mendeleyev you might feel a flutter of self-congratulation. (Hey, I got that reference!) But if
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is written entirely in questions. Yes, it does sound a little gimmicky, but I absolutely loved it. I can't really explain why I loved it so much, and I can't exactly figure out who to recommend it to, because I think a lot of people would hate it. The questions often made me smile or laugh, think of people or events I'd forgotten about, or just have a moment of genuine reflection.

Like the question, "Do you miss Tab and do you fully understand its disappearance?" takes me right back to
I'm going to call this mildly irritating, rather precious book a great book for teenagers. It's all questions. "Would you rather be bitten by an alligator or a large cat? How many diapers whould you say you have changed in your life?"

So, you know what? What species of human spends upwards of 50% of its time questioning things? What age group considers self-examination as necessary as texting?

Teenagers. In case the "texting" clue didn't tip you off. Only reservation I would have about handing th
Apr 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Stream of questions from beginning to end. Some of my favorites:

"If there was a service whereby everything in your apartment or house could be made to disappear (called House Fire without Fire), without any mess or hassle or delay, and you would receive, in compensation, partial value of the material that disappeared, what partial value would be necessary for your to contract with this service?"

"What is the largest zone of neglect in your life?"

"Do you regard yourself as redeemed, redeemable, or
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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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“If the observation were made to you that "Strangers become intimate, and as intimacy grows they lower their guards and less mind their manners until errors are made, which decreases intimacy until estrangement exceeds that which existed before the strangers ever met," would you be inclined to agree?” 9 likes
“Life is a sandwich of activity between two periods of bed-wetting,” 7 likes
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