Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: "Typical" by Padgett Powell

While my good friend Chad is really into postmodern literature, especially the short stories of George Saunders, I am much less warm to them. While the books I enjoyed that would fall into this category of literature I really love, like Infinite Jest and House of Leaves, the ones I didn’t like I actually really don’t like, like anything written by Ben Marcus. I really question the skill it takes to write some of these stories, which have more brains than heart most of the time. And while it started out really promising, Typical by Padgett Powell is just another lazy attempt at though-provoking literature. That sounds cruel but I mean, especially when good literature is tossed aside in favor of it just because it isn’t labeled daring and original. Having vented, I would be interested in reading Powell’s novels. All of them are short and have ideas that I would think would contain them. The problem with this collection seems to be the opposite; ideas are so flimsy that they can blow away and disappear at the slightest breeze. As I said, the collection starts out great, with the title story being about a man from the south who, in the immortal words of Al Bundy, seems to not have been passed over by time, but for time to be sitting on his head. It is a sad, funny, gross monologue that Powell executes with precision. Too bad the rest of the stories are your typical (no pun intended) postmodern exercises in navel gazing. Stories that don’t connect within themselves or the reader, and even worse, stories that read like grocery lists, like the set of stories titled after states, which use metaphors that are painfully obvious. I like Powell as much as I like any other southern writer, and I hope he has left these techniques behind for his later books.
Rating: 3/5

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