cover image Indigo: Arm Wrestling, Snake Saving, and Some Things in Between

Indigo: Arm Wrestling, Snake Saving, and Some Things in Between

Padgett Powell. Catapult, $16.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-64622-005-2

Novelist Powell (The Interrogative Mood) makes his nonfiction debut with this winning collection of essays published between 1987 and 2018. With infectious curiosity and sympathy, Powell covers literature, sports, and the American South. “Cleve Dean” tells the story of an arm-wrestling icon from Pavo, Ga., as he’s en route to Sweden to try to regain his world championship title after nearly a decade; Powell anticipates the event as “a clear and possibly heroic moment.” “Saving the Indigo” captures Powell’s fascination with and search for the endangered indigo snake. Calling himself “a fool for the Indigo,” he first encountered the “giant, purple, friendly snake” as a 12-year-old, and his obsession has endured for five decades. There’s a slew of essays on his friendships with other artists as well as writers he admires: “Don Barthelme” pinpoints the writer’s specific brand of wordplay-based humor, and “Grace Paley” recounts her insistence that “men will be boys.” Powell’s prose is razor-sharp, and locales such as New Orleans and Bermuda come alive through his shrewd eye and distinctive storytelling. His insightful observations on the craft and teaching of writing (“All novels are frauds”) are a bonus. This will delight Powell’s fans and should gain him some new ones, too. (Nov.)