Padgett Powell (Edisto) is back with another sui generis novel, You & Me--a nod in the direction of Vladimir and Estragon, those two great talkers in Waiting for Godot.
The two characters--and they really are characters--say regarding their whereabouts: "Geographically we have no idea. In the geography that has no place, that which obtains when the there is not there, can you dig it, we are between Jacksonville, Florida and Bakersfield, California." Call it absurdist, call it experimental fiction, postmodernist; whatever it is, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
They talk--oh, how they talk:
"Why do we talk
Why would we not?
I suspect that is why we talk: what would we do if we did not talk.
Precious little else, darlin'
Your point is that we do nothing but talk...
And that if we cease, we do nothing, are nothing.
Well, given how little we talk about, we are next to nothing already.
I dispute you not."
It is not true that they talk about nothing. They talk about the definitions of words they like: trepanning, furring strips, Craigiator, irrigable, wizened, pustulent; silly names like Studio Becalmed and Something Twice, Constant Rectitude and Inherent Muddle. These lofty concepts are clearly not nothing. They are heavy with Something; it remains for the reader to discern what exactly that is.
These two also talk, in hilariously ribald fashion, about sex and love, love and sex, body parts, girls and women lost and found and how they felt about them, yielding gems of insight and expression: "Those were the days in which hormones ran like gurgling brooks in our veins and melted our knees with need."
On yard sales and the presidency: "The poor kleptos go to yard sales, the rich run for president, out of the same impulse."
Then, inevitably, they begin to feel the horizon shortening and decide that they must "live every day of our lives as if it's the last day of our life. Let's see: that's LEDOOLAIITLDOOL. It sounds like a Mayan god." They think about that for a while and decide "there is a point after which the jokes stop and we have to figure out how to die." From there, one of them is moved to say, "I am too tired to any longer not be insensitive. It takes a lot of energy to be sensitive."
Don't be fooled into thinking that this is a trivial book. Stay with it and the payoffs are marvelous. --Valerie Ryan
Shelf Talker: A one-off from Padgett Powell, who gets deeper and funnier every time out.