Wednesday, June 27

ask and ask and ask

friend Chris and I... we have been friends since 2003. this is both remarkable and just the way things are. I shall say it is awesome.

also awesome is the fact that dear friend Chris keeps sending me books. first there was Gormenghast (which I have lent to friend Melanie in hopes that she will love it very much also). and then, just a few months ago on the twentieth of March, the following conversation occurred:
Chris: i discovered a book today that is screaming your name
me: ooh
Chris: but i don't want to tell you what it is. i feel you should receive it without knowing anything about it. also, i have only read the first few pages
me: oooh. i need to repay you for these books you keep sending me.
and then, after long enough that my silly brain has had time to largely forget about the above recorded conversation, as we sat at a sunny-ish breakfast table in the middle of Budapest, friend Chris handed me this:
{ mhm, that is a map of Budapest tucked inside. for safekeeping. }

the book is called The Interrogative Mood, by a rather odd writer named Padget Powell. every shred of this little novel (it's actually got "a novel?" under the title on the title page) is phrased as part of a question. as I took the little paperback from Chris and opened it for the first time, what he'd said about this book that had been "screaming my name" flew rushingly back to my memory and I was thoroughly delighted.

the epigraph is Whitman--
Do you take it I would astonish?
Does the daylight astonish? or the early redstart twittering through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?
the first lines bare all their insistent teeth--
Are your emotions pure? Are your nerves adjustable?
and you find you've been sat down very firmly on one side of this relentless wall of curiosity. many of the questions make you laugh. many are puzzlingly specific. their implications make you wonder. who is asking these questions? who could ever be expected to answer them all? Mr. Powell gets quite inventive with his sentence structure, (perhaps proving the "limits are possibilites" thought I tossed in at the end of this post), but there are a few noticeable themes. dozens of "Do you...?" and generous handfuls of "Have I told you...?" and this all goes on for 164 pages. I found it very engaging, and it was greedily finished before our homeward flight was even halfway across the Atlantic.

the goodreads reviews of Mr. Powell's questionable novel run from the hugely disappointed to the understandably impressed, and everything in between. a few people attempt to cleverly match the style of the book and write their reviews in the interrogative mood. several mention the fact that the true subject of this work is its reader. is that true? maybe it could be.

I noticed that the author's working on a another formally limited piece of writing, an excerpt of which can be read over here, if you like. instead of questions, this one is made up of commands. gimmicky? okay. yes.

but The Interrogative Mood was screaming my name. I love questions. I'm quite fond of quirky. I need to repay Chris for all these great books he keeps sending me. but with what? which? when?