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Friday, January 15, 2016

=Books recently read: Cries for Help, Various by Padgett Powell=

Wow, what a revelation this book turned out to be! I had Padgett Powell mistakenly pegged to an entirely different literary enterprise, one I wasn't much interested in experiencing, i.e.. the reformed, guilt-ridden Southerner spinning sentimental reparative yarns about precociously innocent young white boys and long-suffering wisdom-dispensing black elders (my impression, without having read either, of Edisto & Edisto Revisited) in a soddenly dismal if well-meant attempt to rewrite the indelible racist mythology that survived the death of the Confederacy and continues its brainless flesh-eating ways to this very day.

Boy was I wrong! This collection of short stories reveals Powell to be piloting his small avant-garde craft way out there on the very literary horizon between sense and incomprehensibility. He's a kind of David Markson with a southern twang, a corn-porn Samuel Beckett, inventing hilarious gags, comic pratfalls, and zany dialogues to dramatize the absurdity, both high and low,  of human existence. 


I'm not sure what coincidence or higher power led me to poke my finger between two books on the top shelf of the "p" section of the Windsor-Tice branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system where I'd been looking (so far, everywhere, in vain) for a copy of Jay Parini's fictionalized account of Walter Benjamin's flight from the Nazis, and pull down this slim volume of stories from an author I'd previously—and stupidly—discounted from my reading purview. But whatever the confluence of unidentifiable factors that did so, I'm sure spectacularly grateful I was open to them. Padgett Powell is the best thing since chocolate chip pancakes, Hildebrandt's cookies-n-cream ice cream, and pink plastic vibrators.

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