A review: The Interrogative Mood

by Padgett Powell
Here is where I usually link to a reading/discussion guide or two, I’m not really sure one needs a guide. The book, itself, is a guide to discussion.

a summary
A book of questions, sometimes the questions relate to those before and after sometimes not.

a review
I couldn’t read very much of the book at a time, it overwhelmed my brain to the point of pain. The the more I read, the less nonsensical the paragraphs seem so I am able to read more at a time. I have found that skipping forward and back to be the best way for me to enjoy the book. I wish there was an index so I could find exact questions again. If you have someone in your life you’d like to know better, grab a copy and have a go at it. I think I would rate this book for adults, some of the questions I wouldn’t want to explain to my 5 year old even though I don’ have a five year old. I may add this to my library if I happen upon a copy for a reasonable amount of money.

A few of my favorite questions, copyright of course belongs to the author, quoted here only to entice others to read it.

  • Would a catastrophic global war be required to restore us to simple living? p17
  • Have you any skills in the area of weaving or knitting? p35
  • Do you miss Tab and do you fully understand its disappearance? p43
  • Can you knit? p61
  • Would it be reasonable to ask someone if he or she has a favorite musical note? p66
  • Why is a banana yellow and not banana? p67


wreck this journal

While in a bookstore a number of months ago, though I cannot guess which month, I came across a book. The intriguing cover featured a scrap piece of notebook paper stuck to the black book with masking tape. The title was scrawled on the scrap in a calligraphy style of handwriting. I couldn’t help myself, I picked it up and flipped to the first page and the second and the third and I must interrupt at this point and mention I was not alone at the bookstore, who ever is with all the employees and other customers, but that is not my meaning. I was with a friend at the time and I chased her down or called her back so I could begin to read the most amazing things to her. The book was not a book in the usual sense but not quite a journal in the usual journal sense. On the page where one usually writes the answer to: this book belongs to: and please return if found or even this journal covers the dates from blank to blank, I found instead a page, in a font meant to mimic handwriting, asking for my name to be written several different ways (not the least of which was illegibly, I’m pretty sure my 3rd grade teacher will have something to say about that) and instructing the finder of my lost book (in the event I misplace it) to randomly turn to a page in MY journal and follow the given instructions THEN return it to me. I was a bit on edge and it was just the first page. Page two outlined some general instructions, the fun really began after that. There was a simple line or two at the top of each page with a not so simple instruction that the author seemed to expect me to obey. Rather than create cookie cutter entries as most journals go, you know the type:

dear diary,
how are you today? I’m fine. the weather is cloudy, the dog is sleeping. that’s all for now

These instructions did not ask me to set about creating word combinations and patterns to set upon the page, I was was expected to pay to for a book/journal that I was to systematically destroy. As I flipped from page to page reading the instructions I knew there to be precious few I would perform. To rip a page out of the book, a horror in itself, then not return it to the book. To burn a page while still in the book, eliminating another page. To cut it into strips while still in the book, I cackled with disbelief audibly. Make a paper chain and leave it somewhere, I thought that was called littering. Who on earth would deliberately break/crack the spine of a perfectly lovely, brand new book. I work so hard to read a book so as not to damage the spine accidentally. The conversation escalated with each page turn demanding a more impossible feat than before, though I reasoned I could accomplish a few. I could possibly scribble on a page, but just one. I could possibly cause a stain from a food I was to consume to appear in the smallest possible corner. Maybe I would run it over with a bike tire, but more likely I would run the tire in an old stamp pad and gently apply the page to the tire. I’m all for creatively expressing myself in the usual boring ways. Let’s not get all willy-nilly and destroy a lovely deliciously intriguing book, even if the author thought I would. If I left it unharmed, I could read and reread all the while contemplating all the things I could do to the book, but surely won’t. I carefully put the book back on the shelf, continued to browse and commented on the silliness of it all. Absolutely no one is going to buy a book to destroy it-hello! I had hoped to leave it there and never think of it again. The book popped into my head every time I went to that bookstore, the solution of course is to go to a different bookstore. Tonight, while reading the blog of a podcast I listen to, she mentioned the book, which I recognized immediately. I found a link to the website off her page and away I went. I may put this book on my mental list book books to try one day or I may try it on my own. I know I have a journal or 10 that are either empty (but I had good intentions of filling them, I buy about one a year) or take one half started and create my own destructive things to do to express what words are not.

Update: August 15, 2008
I visited GR today and purposefully visited a store where I could hold a copy in my hand again. I must report that after spending a few hours on the interwebs, I was able to find all but about 4 or 5 of the journal instructions. I’m not sure that this is a good thing. After flipping through the book, I put it gently back on the shelf, but not before considering doing something sudden and violent to it as directed. At this point, I am not willing to purchase a book to destroy it. I do have a journal that is missing a few pages already and am considering putting it out of its misery by totally decimating it as directed by a few suggestions from the previously mentioned website.