20th century artists, experimental literature

The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell

January 8, 2011

“If Duchamp or maybe Magritte wrote a novel…it might look something like this remarkable little book of Padgett Powell’s”.

So speaks American novelist Richard Ford on the topic of recent bestseller, The Interrogative Mood. Yes, that is the novel written entirely in questions.

Indeed, there is question after question for 164 pages. Powell will ask one moment if your doorbell ever rings and then in the next for the number of push ups you can do. It works, sort of.

I like the idea this book could or should have been written by one of the showmen of modern art. But in my view Duchamp could never have written it. There is too much frivolity in this work.

Chapter 17 of Ulysses by James Joyce is also written in question form and the tone of enquiry there seems much closer to the spirit of Dada or conceptual art.

And with all due respect to Ford, I’d have to argue that Magritte might also have written something altogether different. If find his work quite ominous, whereas this curious novel is amiable and goes out of its way to reassure at times.

Yet there is indeed much artistry in The Interrogative Mood.  And since the gesture is so pure, the texture so rich and the composition so free from narrative of any sort, I’d have given it to Jackson Pollock, personally.

…as the real author might say, have you read this book? What did you think? Etc, etc.

The Interrogative Mood is published by Profile Books and is available here.

2 Comments

  • Reply Louise January 8, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Darn it! And here was me already getting anxious about the list of books I want to read this year plus the pile of books I have been bought that I must read. Then I go and read your blog and decide I need to add this to the list … thanks, I think … !? 😛

    Happy New Year! x

    • Reply Mark Sheerin January 8, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      Hi Louise, happy new year. Well it’s a quick read at least if you do decide to go for it. And I guess there’ll always be a pile and a list. It’s best to just accept that!

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