Monday, January 30, 2012

book review: You & I by Padgett Powell

"How many of us are there?
There's the two of us, right now. You and me. You and I."

Padgett Powell likes to write inventively. His last book was a series of questions from start to finish leaving the reader searching for their own answers. This time most of the questions get answered as two men discuss life, dreams and whether or not they will go and get some beer dressed in an orange jump suit.

It's been a while since I read the Interrogative Mind but I'm sure some of those questions got a repeat airing here as the two men bounce thoughts back and forth. You have a picture in your mind of two men, not so old ambitions have withered away but neither young, sitting on a porch watching the world go by.

They are clearly old friends and make references to shared experiences that sometimes they can remember and others cannot find it in their memories. They both seem to share the same view of the world and both get excited at the thought of 'losing it' and wandering off verbally into a random world punctured by anger.

Reading this book is not as much of a challenge as the questions after questions predecessor but neither is it perhaps a comfortable ride. Most, myself included, will come to this with a grounding in the old familiar narrative form. Searching for a middle and end here will lead to a headache. The conversation between the two men is going to go on until broken by illness or death and this is a snapshot into it. That sense of it never ending is in itself a challenge to the reader because it raises questions about not just what would your answer be to the questions but what would you do if you were stuck in a verbal relationship like this one?

There is a comfort in knowing that when you sit there with a friend and put the world to rights you are probably more coherent than these two characters. But ultimately just as they struggle to find the effort to make a difference and recapture a lost sense of momentum, perhaps that fate beckons for all of us.

No comments: