When Padgett Powell speaks, readers listen.
Voice has always been the hallmark of Powell's fiction; he's a modern master of first-person narrative. In books like The Interrogative Mood — composed entirely of questions directed at the reader — and You & Me, a Samuel Beckett-in-Dixie dialogue, he creates whole worlds out of the voices of characters.
That's been true ever since his first novel, Edisto, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1984. Now Catapult Press has published a handsome new edition of Edisto, with an introduction by Roy Blount Jr., and Powell will bring his own distinctive voice to Tampa to talk about it. He'll appear Aug. 13 for a discussion and signing at the Oxford Exchange.
Powell, 65, has been on the faculty of the creative writing program of the University of Florida since 1984. He has published six novels and three short story collections, and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's, the Paris Review, Best American Short Stories and Best American Sports Writing.
Edisto established his mastery of voice right off the bat, narrated as it is by 12-year-old Simons Manigault, who is growing up in an eccentric (to put it mildly) setting on the coast between Savannah and Charleston. As Blount writes in his introduction, Simons is "a deeply likeable and reliable, extraordinarily non-emo, teller of his tale." Edisto has been compared to books by J.D. Salinger, James Joyce and Flannery O'Connor.
Blount, no slouch himself when it comes to voice, says of it, "As a writer I was envious of Edisto then and am envious of it now. As just myself the reader, I love going back over it, picking up on highlights anew."
You can hear about it today in Powell's very own voice.