Title: You & I
Author: Padgett Powell
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail, 2013
How did you get it? Free review copy sent by the publisher on publication, in the year that I reviewed it for Metro newspaper.
The moving nostalgic sweep of Padgett Powell’s last book The Interrogative Mood was always going to be a hard act to follow. How to create something new and inventive after such an innovative and unusual novel? Well, Powell continues to rebel against a normal plot development and instead goes for a conversation, a clever move given his wonderful ear for dialogue. Two men chat, drink coffee, reminisce, bicker and riff off each other, occasionally displaying a benevolent misanthropy and, at other times, a juvenile silliness. This senile slackerism throws up some wonderful lines: ‘I am in want of recreational drugs, untattered clothes, psychological counsel, carnal affection, a dog, and a child upon which to lavish trinkets and advice.’ The droll response: ‘I fear for this child.’ The swift comeback: ‘Not more than I.’
Powell’s characters all seem to want to hold a mirror up to what we have become and what we have lost, often giving voice to a yearning for past times that isn’t as sentimental as it would be in other hands. One of his old men opines: ‘As we decline the words get better.’ Indeed they do.