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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


You & Me
(You & I)

Padgett Powell

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To purchase You & Me

Title: You & Me
Author: Padgett Powell
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011
Length: 194 pages
Availability: You & Me - US
You & I - UK
You & Me - Canada
You & I - India
  • US title: You & Me
  • UK title: You & I

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Our Assessment:

B : appealing enough back and forth

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Bookforum . 6-8/2012 Joshua Cohen
The NY Times . 15/8/2012 Dwight Garner
The NY Times Book Rev. . 5/8/2012 Thomas Mallon
Publishers Weekly . 16/4/2012 .
San Francisco Chronicle . 20/8/2012 Kenneth Baker

  From the Reviews:
  • "It’s a bit of a bummer. (...) The sound You & Me mostly makes is that of a writer not hitting a dead end, exactly, but of a writer not appearing to try very hard. This short book, with its short chapters each topped by an ampersand, is mostly winding filler, talk that doesn’t seem quite worthy of the name." - Dwight Garner, The New York Times

  • "The book’s stylistic pastiche, which allows no single element to dominate, contributes to a feeling of inert virtuosity. (...) But scattershot aperçus do not make a novel. Any number of this book’s offhand insights and hypotheses could be developed into full-blown stories that move instead of meander, that do more than click their way from one YouTube morsel to the next." - Thomas Mallon, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Powell asks what happens to a novel when it’s stripped of exposition, setting, and plot. What remains is dialogue, the sort of ribald dialogue that Barry Hannah’s liars might cast out over the water, pining for sex, drink, and some answers." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Powell's ventriloquism makes the book hilarious, bizarre and absorbing to any reader who knows and cares that literature, with all its furnishings, is made of words. Powell shoves that fact under the reader's nose and withdraws it willy-nilly." - Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Padgett Powell's previous 'novel', The Interrogative Mood, was presented entirely in the form of questions; this one consists almost solely of dialogue -- a brief scene-setting explanation at the outset is the only exception -- without even an attribution of the speakers. Powell introduces his two protagonists as: "two weirdly agreeable dudes" and situates them on a porch: "Somewhere between Bakersfield, California, and Jacksonville, Florida".
       Powell presents his pair as: "talking a lot. It's all they have." Indeed, as they observe at one point:

     Are you essentially alone ?
     Yes. It's you and me. You and I.
       [The American and British publishers clearly couldn't quite agree, either: in the UK the book was published as You & I, in the US it is sold as You & Me .....]
       They're old codgers -- "we are not young girls anymore", they lament --, babbling about all sorts of things, involved in a near-constant (or at least daily revived): "genteel talktail party", just the two of them. It is all they have -- "what would we do if we did not talk ?" -- and they do worry about the coming silence:
     Your point is that we do nothing but talk ...
     And that if we cease, we do nothing, are nothing.
     Well, given how little we talk about, we are next to nothing already.
       They're well aware:
     We are afraid to be men, to engage the world bravely
       Indeed, they go so far as to suggest they are nothing more than nothing: "Nulls." One suspects the line from King Lear echoes in their minds -- "Nothing will come of nothing, speak again" -- because that is what they continue to do -- yet one entire late chapter consists of the lines:
     What ?
       Theirs is the fundamental philosophical conundrum:
     Why can we not live real lives ?
     I don't know.
       But at least they can take solace -- a little while longer -- in the knowledge that:
     We are not yet dead.
     Not yet.
     At some point we will stop joking about it and become afraid.
       Of course, this fear of mortality is already present throughout their dialogue, even as it is masked by their joking. They are older men, they are facing death (as, indeed, they already feel (and act) very much 'put out to pasture').
       You & Me, divided into short chapters, is more dialogue-excerpts than continuous conversation. Presented in more or less cohesive chunks and bites, much may seem relatively mundane, but the truly mundane has been excised from the text. As laid-back as they seem, their dialogues presented here are the nitty-gritty. There are variations on quite a few themes, but they return to several core ideas and notions. They've developed a common, slightly stilted language, and an easy, convincing rapport. They're playful in their use of language, and in their exchanges -- but the serious side is also always present, at or near the surface: typical praise goes: "Well put. As well put as any failed man ever put it."
       With little 'plot' and only dialogue to go on (there aren't even the stage-directions of a playscript), You & Me is a bare-bones text. Powell handles that quite well. He also allows his characters nice turns of phrases in presenting dialogue that, if not entirely life-like, is at least a great pleasure to read.
       Not quite the amusing exercise The Interrogative Mood was, You & Me is still decent literary fun.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 July 2012

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You & Me: Reviews: Padgett Powell: Other books by Padgett Powell under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Padgett Powell was born in 1952.

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© 2012 the complete review

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