Woman Named Drown

Padgett Powell, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $14.95 (152p) ISBN 978-0-374-29204-1
Critics and readers lauded Edisto, Powell's first novel, for its originality and witty, mannered prose. His second book does not live up to expectations. The slim tale, narrated by a young man who abandons his doctorate program in chemistry to amass instead ""lab notes of life,'' consists of a series of picaresque encounters with characters often identified only by labels (e.g., ``the Veteran'', ``the Orphan''), none of whom is appealing and all of whom are eccentric to the point of grotesquery. The idiosyncracies of style that were endearing in Edisto are labored here to excess, and the book's campy tone becomes irritating early on. While Powell's ear for Southern speech is impeccable, the dialogue goes nowhere, and the narration is bogged down in murky philosophizing about life as a series of scientific chain reactions or as theater of the absurd. The narrator explains his reaction-series theory of existence in pseudoscientific language that slows an already nearly inert story. While he eventually comes to a somewhat hopeful conclusion about his future, the reader has long since ceased to care. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1987
Release date: 05/01/1987
Paperback - 179 pages - 978-0-8050-0750-3
Paperback - 178 pages - 978-1-4804-6421-6
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 180 pages - 978-1-4804-6420-9
Ebook - 180 pages - 978-1-4804-4162-0
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