Edisto: A Novel by Padgett Powell
“Simons Manigault is brother to all literary adolescents—Mailer’s D.J., Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus. . . . [Edisto] is a sparkling read, so full of an energetic intelligence, inventiveness, love of language and love of people. . . . Padgett Powell is an extravagantly talented writer.” —Ron Loewinsohn, The New York Times Book Review
“A remarkable book . . . There is not a line that simply slides by; each, in one way or another, turns things to a fresh and unexpected angle. There are splendid things said.” —Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“When asked for a list of the best American writers of the younger generation, I invariably put Padgett Powell at the top.” —Saul Bellow
With a new forward by Roy Blount Jr.
Padgett Powell’s first novel (1984) is about coming of age on Edisto, an undeveloped strip of coast between Savannah and Charleston, a “named but never discovered place in the South.”
Simons Manigault (“You say it ‘Simmons.’ I’m a rare one-m Simons”) lives with his mother, an eccentric professor known locally as the Duchess, who is convinced her twelve-year-old son can become a writer of genius. She has immersed Simons in the literary classics since birth and has given him free rein to gather material in such spots as a nightclub called Marvin’s R.O. Sweet Shop and Baby Grand.
At the center of Simons’s life on Edisto is an enigmatic character who tutors the boy in the art of watching the world without presumption. “Taurus,” as he is dubbed by Simons, acts as a father surrogate as well, taking his precocious young charge in stride. He leads him to, among other discoveries, his first prizefight, date, and hangover.
The way Simons sees the world will change radically when he leaves his ad-lib life among the denizens of Edisto for the private schools and tennis tournaments of Hilton Head, South Carolina—the territory of his father, “The Progenitor.” Using the combination of a child’s run-on phrasing and the vigorous prose and deft comic touches of a writer who is sure of every step, Padgett Powell established himself as a vivid new American writer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Padgett Powell is the author of six novels, including The Interrogative Mood and Edisto, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and three collections of stories. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Paris Review, as well as in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Sports Writing. He has received a Whiting Award, the Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Powell lives in Gainesville, Florida.