BY SEAN CLARK
JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, four of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, The Interrogative Mood, by Padget Powell. Can you reverse-engineer their fabrications and pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)
1.) Peter Grey had a back like a question mark. No one ever thought he would amount to anything. But one day Gray decided if you can’t beat it, embrace it–or rather de-brace it. Upon throwing away his back brace and any attempt at improving his physical condition, Grey does what would have never occurred to anyone who ever saw him: works manual labor in the tight spaces of a Pennsylvania coal mine. Knowing his fellow workers are not built for the narrow mines like he is, he spends the little off time he has not building a family, but fighting for the rights of his fellow miners. Peter Gray becomes the greatest labor advocate of the Twentieth Century that no one ever heard of. In the end, there is no question about the upright nature of Gray.
2.) All Sam can remember is that she has a family, somewhere. But who then is she living with now? She knows she has lived and worked where she has for years; she has memories. Yet each morning she awakes beside a husband-stranger with an ineffable feeling that the life she lives is not her own. How can one even begin to search for the impossible?
3.) Are your emotions pure? Are you leaving now? Would you? Would you mind? Thoughtful, cajoling and absurdist, Powell’s book of random non sequiturs are not without their method, sounding some tenderly recurring themes, such as a middle-aged ruefulness for simpler times, a longing for more elegant forms in clothes, tools, cars and looks and a tenderness for elephants, dogs and children. Are you bothered by your cowardice? Hilarity, irony, and sheer perverseness vie to question essentially what we know and how what we know makes us what we are.
4.) It’s a matter of inflection; with the right emphasis, facts become questions. Jasper Carl owns an art gallery in Greenwich Village, a proven testing ground for young up-and-coming abstract painters. Now, pressured by divorce, financial ruin, and a mysterious art dealer pushing his unheard of client with soft threats, Jasper must wrestle with some hard questions he has tried to ignore for years, questions about how he rose to his present place in life, and how he staid there.
5.) Is there a book by Padget Powell written entirely in hypothetical questions? Will it chronicle the intellectual and emotional awakening of one New York City Town Clerk as she begins to question her world? What will she discover as she interrogates her friends, family, former lovers, and even her own memories? Where will these questions, and their answers, lead her? And just who is leaving the notes underneath her door each night, prompting her interrogation with the riddles posed in each? Why are the questions taking on a terrifying menace as they become more personal, and threatening? Can she survive The Interrogative Mood?