Padgett Powell

What kind of sandwiches do you like to eat? What kind of sandwiches do you like to make? Have you ever enjoyed a sandwich made by a stranger and attempted to make a copy of your own in private? Have you ever stolen a sandwich? Have you ever stolen food? Have you ever stolen anything that was quite expensive? Have you ever committed a felony? Are you a criminal? What is the most exotic animal you’ve ever ridden? Are you interested in ambergris? What is the longest you’ve ever gone without eating? Do you read anything that makes you think it is possible to interact with humans in consistently positive ways? Have you ever had sex on a plane? Have you ever seen anything no reasonable person would believe? What’s the best way to kill an hour? What is your favorite color? Do you know anybody named Fanny who is under 40 and isn’t British? Ever been inside a pyramid? How long have you gone without showering? Ever met a venerator of Satan? What do you think about globalization and the internet? What can you tell me about the “dark web?” How about that line from Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… that mentions a “27-inch Zenith” which has in the interim become a respectably-but-not-shockingly-large TV size? Do you think you’d be one of the people refusing to administer shocks to someone with a heart condition if ordered to do so by an authority figure? Have you ever been really, really star-struck? Has anyone you’ve told about being star-struck appeared bored by your experience? Have you ever had intercourse on [a] psychedelic substance[s] and thought you were inside an octopus or that you were an actual octopus? What do you think about the narrative possibilities of a series of questions? Have you ever owned an Erector Set? If someone hasn’t read P.P. is s/he also allowed to construct a series of questions in book form and plaster excerpts in public places and make vimeo videos with celebrities and porn stars reading from the series and still love J.J. for implanting the image of an arm inserted elbowdeep in a male vulva in his/her mind and for coining (among xxxxxxx) pronouns “shis” and “hrim?” What’s your sign, birl? Have you ever been dangerously close to murdering someone? Maiming? Do you take the national security of the United States of America seriously? Would you take a bite out of a human heart (and not even necessarily swallow) for $3,500 (or for nothing if you must) if a donor had stipulated in THEIR will that THEY would donate $3,500,000 to all cancers if someone did the heart biting thing and took money for Do you ever slip into certain modes of thinking/speaking based on your level of ______? Does heavy whipping cream always sound erotic to you? Ever listen to “I Like It Rough” on repeat while beating yourself in the face with a velveteen hammer just to “see what happens?” EP UPI RBRT make coffee at night then put it in cup and place the cup somewhere so it can cool off and not “attract attention” then after it has cooled off place the cup next to your bed so it will be there when you wake up because if you wake up without the cup there you might not be able to get up and make coffee and you also like the shudder induced by the cold bitterness? Have you ever seen your name on a blimp/”met” Jason Schwartzman? Do you think I spelled it correctly without looking it up? Do you know what an SP-1200 is? What is the most notable song (and only one I can think of right now) referencing the SP-1200? Wanna go inside a pyramid?


“Why do they apply. This to that.” – Gertrude Stein

I think it’s fascinating that a statement followed by a question mark asks a question of itself? Don’t you? Would you rather be considered a concept or a theory? Under what circumstances would you walk the dog? Do you yo-yo much? What, in your opinion, is the essential difference between a word and its thing? Do you feel a word can be more interesting than the thing it represents? Less than? Does the term ‘paradox of the heap’ mean anything to you? What terms do you use when talking about music? About literature? Would it be fair to say these terms are borrowed from the critical discourse surrounding these respective forms of media? Would that not be a fair thing to say because this appropriation has been more or less subconscious? Is your culture popular? If not, do you believe in a ‘popular culture’? If so, who are its friends? Who benefits? What defines your culture? At what point does an onomatopoeia become the sound it signifies? When learning a new language, do new words signify new things, old things, or other words? What does that say about words? Is the term ‘figurative language’ not redundant? Just a little? Is this a book review?


October 19th, 2010 / 6:03 pm

Padgett Powell gives a little writing advice

This was just posted to Unsaid literary journal’s Facebook. Reposted here in case you don’t do the Facebook. (If you do do the Facebook, you should click on the link: “like” the post, “friend” the journal, &c.) There’s also an interview with Powell in the new issue of the New York Tyrant.

Keep in mind what writing should do:

1) Be alive.

2) Be surprising.

3) Obey tenets of economy, verve, etc.

4) Amount to something (usually, in terms of having “something at stake”).

5) Payoff (i.e., resolve).

Any three of five is worth spoiling paper for. It should be remembered also that:

6) Brave wild failure is applauded.

And that:

7) You should be less comfortable if you’re pretty sure of what you’re writing about.

And that:

8) You should ignore, at all times, all sense of authorial narrative obligations, and, certainly, your own preconceptions and ideas.

This is more preaching than could possibly be salubrious. So, some more: Obey only the logic of immediacy, from word to word. Or, obey only its obverse, the illogic of immediacy, or the logic of inimmediacy, as you prefer.

Craft Notes / 12 Comments
October 10th, 2010 / 3:14 pm

Padgett Powell appropriated via Loveline, with all questions from 1 episode collaged [via Ubu]

Another quickie: Padgett Powell wrote an about Warren Sapp for ESPN Magazine, but they didn’t publish it. Deadspin did, though. The piece in nice—strong Powell sentences and all. The post-script for the story, though, where Powell talks about taking a couple of hits from a proffered joint to prove he’s not a narc, is pretty funny.

(1) Ross Simonini discusses nonsense and Carl Sandburg at Poetry Foundation.
(2) Johannes Göransson looks at “fashion” and its context on writing at Exoskeleton.
(3) Michael Kimball interviews Padgett Powell at The Faster Times.

Even During MEAN WEEK, There Are Still Some Things I Don’t Hate; Here are Three (And a Bonus)


Rachel Sherman – I mentioned last week how bummed I was to miss the launch party for Living Room, Rachel’s new novel. She’s reading tomorrow at the KGB Bar here in NYC, and I’m really hoping to make it there.

The Rumpus Interview with Lydia Millet.

The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? by Padgett Powell – In a month that has been more or less one long relentless shitstorm, punctuated by occasional binge drinking, I had no time to read anything that wasn’t assigned–either to me or by me. But I damn well made time for this, my old teacher’s first new book since Mrs. Hollingsworth’s Men (2000). Every time I opened the book it was Christmas afresh. Honest to goodness pleasurable reading. If anything kept me from putting my own head through a wall this October, it was probably this book. But don’t take my word for it. Ask the NYT.


Magnolia Electric Co. Daytrotter Session Another sweet find directed my way by the increasingly essential Alec Niedenthal. Seriously, what did I do before I knew this kid? Because Jason Molina is awesome, and because he seems to believe that the base unit of musical thought is “album,” his band’s theoretically EP-length session is a whopping six songs (the average is 4) and clocks in at just over 22 minutes. It includes new versions of two tracks off Josephine, a new version of “The Dark Don’t Hide It,” which is an all-time Molina great, a couple unreleased songs, and a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money.”

Random / 8 Comments
October 27th, 2009 / 10:50 am

Creative Writing 101


[ WORK DISCUSSED: Tuesday (9/22) – Adrienne Rich, five poems and an essay. Thursday (9/24) – “New York” by Tony Towle; “Texas” by Padgett Powell; “Babalu-Aye” by Eva Talmadge;” writing exercise.]

I never know how to start the class off. Or anyway that’s how it feels. I usually arrive in the room a few minutes early, and start chatting with whoever else is already there. If there’s a conversation already in progress I’ll try to join it, and if they’re all just sitting around quietly I’ll pick someone and ask how his or her day is going, or how the weekend was. If they throw the question back at me (“and how about you?”) I’ll tell them. I try to take attendance right at the official start time, not so much to punish the stragglers as to reward those who got there early. I want them to see me seeing the effort they’ve made. So we do that, and it’s like–now what? “Okay,” I often find myself saying, “what did we read for today?” It’s not that I can’t remember what we read. It’s just that I think there’s something useful about saying it out loud. I asked the class if they preferred to talk about the poems or the essay first. A few people kind of said “poems,” so I said okay, but then there was another choice to be made–which poem? One of the pitfalls of my teaching style (which strives to be dynamic, responsive, and rigorously un-structured) is that it’s hard to get off the ground. It’s like an old prop plane, where you need to start the propellers spinning by hand and then sort of guide it down the runway and hope everything is timed just right and take-off actually happens. Sometimes this takes a few tries. Nobody seemed to care where we started, and consequently we weren’t starting at all.


Behind the Scenes & Craft Notes / 16 Comments
September 25th, 2009 / 5:10 pm