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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Interrogative Mood

Padgett Powell

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To purchase The Interrogative Mood

Title: The Interrogative Mood
Author: Padgett Powell
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009
Length: 165 pages
Availability: The Interrogative Mood - US
The Interrogative Mood - UK
The Interrogative Mood - Canada
The Interrogative Mood - India
Le mode interrogatif - France
Roman in Fragen - Deutschland
Interrogative mood - Italia
El sentido interrogativo - España

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Our Assessment:

B+ : amusing idea -- but not much of a story

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Bookforum . 9-11/2009 Rick Moody
Financial Times . 25/10/2010 Adrian Turpin
The Guardian . 13/11/2010 Steven Poole
Independent on Sunday . 20/11/2011 Brandon Robshaw
The NY Times Book Rev. . 25/10/2009 Josh Emmons
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Spring/2010 Scott Esposito

  From the Reviews:
  • "If I say it’s a bit of a masterpiece, what I imagine I mean is that there are just a few books that resemble The Interrogative Mood (Gilbert Sorrentino’s Gold Fools is the only one that leaps to mind), and that if I were to imagine myself writing this book, which I wish I had, I would not have been able to be this clever and this heartfelt, this funny and this disconsolate, and to make/efface so effectively a narrative that tells its tale only through the process of selecting the seemingly impulsive material." - Rick Moody, Bookforum

  • "Fresh and funny, it reminded me of the work of that other playful monologuist and miniaturist, Nicholson Baker." - Adrian Turpin, Financial Times

  • "Is this the most bloody-mindedly brilliant new work of fiction I have read this year ? Why ? Who's asking ? Could you stop that please ?" - Steven Poole, The Guardian

  • "Do you think you'd like The Interrogative Mood ? Why don't you read it and find out ?" - Brandon Robshaw, Independent on Sunday

  • "The Interrogative Mood demands to be read deliberately, for it is courageous and entertaining and interested in the essential mysteries of self and society. Powell, with his outsize romanticism and urge only to connect, shows that it is through questions rather than answers that truth can, however fleetingly, be glimpsed." - Josh Emmons, The New York Times Book Review

  • "It is no more and no less than the titular sensation distilled and spread over the page, and thus it is foremost a reading experience, a purely aesthetic entertainment." - Scott Esposito, Review of Contemporary Fiction

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:

       The Interrogative Mood is a work of fiction written entirely in questions. Yes, question after question after question. Over a thousand, surely. Sometimes a series of related questions follow one another, elsewhere they seem nearly random. Some questions crop up more than once, sometimes in slightly different form.
       The unidentified questioner -- there are almost no clues as to his (or perhaps her) identity -- does ask a lot:

Are you pro blue jay or anti blue jay ? Are you familiar with the viscosities of the various common oils and greases ? Have you ever used a torque wrench ? Do you have any friends ?
       Hundreds of questions later, he might return to one, elaborating on it:
I have asked you before if you have used a torque wrench but cannot remember your answer: if you have, did you find knowing the torque gratifying or did knowing it strike you as fussy and recherché
       He never seems to remember the answers: this is a completely one-sided conversation -- and were it not for these few acknowledgements of a respondent the questions themselves would seem entirely self-reflexive, the whole circling back in on itself (i.e. the questioner). At one point, he seems to want to draw the reader/conversation partner into it more deeply:
Is there anything you'd like to ask me ? Are you curious to know what I'll do with the answers you've given me ? Do you think I can make some kind of meaningful "profile" of you ? Could you, or someone, do you think, make such a profile of me from the questions I have asked you ?
       That is, of course, one of the questions raised by this long series of questions -- but the questioner awaits and admits no answer (which tells us a bit more about him ...).
       Many of the questions are unexpected -- especially in the mix they are presented as -- and some are downright odd:
Have you ever been lain on by a heavy naked person in a boat as it raced by another boat full of heavy naked people ?
       (A question then followed by: "Is the world through with worrying about Communism ?" -- yes, there's little obvious rhyme and reason here.)
       There are also some very specific questions (but which at least suggest a bit more about the questioner, as he asks for agreement in a more leading question):
Am I the only one who thinks CBS should be prosecuted for getting rid of Jill Arrington over the nipple erection during the Florida-Tennessee game ? Of course they covered their tracks and will not be found accountable, but the fact remains that someone owes Jill an apology, don't you think ?
       Occasionally scenarios will be spun out, culminating in questions such as:
Would there not be cause for wild cheer among a certain kind of depression-suffering person who reads the headline "Suspected Slayer of Cartoonist R.Crumb Victim of Cobra in Burma" ?
       (So, yes, quite a few of these questions are a bit on the pointless side.)
       Early on the questioner asks:
Should I go away ? Leave you alone ? Should I bother but myself with the interrogative mood ?
       Of course, since the reader holds a book in hand the options are the reader's (toss the book aside, etc.). But this interrogative mood is oddly seductive, the questions varied and, in a variety of ways, thought-provoking so that it's hard to put the thing down.
       The Interrogative Mood doesn't lead far; it barely leads anywhere. Yet the questions tumble through the reader's mind, and lead to answers and more questions.
       Bizarre but entertaining stuff.

- M.A.Orthofer, 8 July 2009

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The Interrogative Mood: Reviews: Padgett Powell: Other books by Padgett Powell under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary American fiction

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About the Author:

       American author Padgett Powell was born in 1952.

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© 2009-2011 the complete review

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