You & Me

by Padgett Powell

You & Me by Padgett Powell

Hardcover, 192 pages, Ecco, List Price: $23.99 | purchase

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Book Summary

Powell's latest is southern-fried, whiskey-soaked. You & Me doesn't rely on intricate plotting — it's just two guys drinking on a porch.

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Critics' Lists: Summer 2012

Literary Look Ahead: 13 Great Books On The Horizon

Padgett Powell's debut novel, Edisto, enchanted critics way back in 1984. In fact, Saul Bellow was so impressed he called Powell the best author of his generation. Like his late fellow Southerners Donald Barthelme and Barry Hannah, Powell is a postmodernist with a brash sense of humor and an endlessly inquiring mind, and his recent novels (like 2009's The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?) have been as fun as they are smart. The writer's latest, You & Me,

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: You & Me

Somewhere between Bakersfield, California, and Jacksonville, Florida — we think spiritually nearer the former and geographically nearer the latter — two weirdly agreeable dudes are on a porch in a not upscale neighborhood, apparently within walking distance of a liquor store, talking a lot. It's all they have. Things disturb them. Some things do not.

***

There's about fourteen ounces of this left.

There's a hair in it.

It's okay.

If you said "lard-and-hair sandwich" to her, my mother would gag.

Was that a Depression food?

I think it was a joke, but I'm not sure.

I've heard of butter and sugar sandwiches. But that would hardly be a Depression meal.

I have no idea what the Depression was, or what the war was, or the wars after that, or before — I don't know anything at all, you get right down to it.

So these codgers have something on us.

Yes they do. That is our cross to bear. Everyone knows shit but us.

Let's make the best of it.

Fuck these codgers.

They come over here with that shit, tell 'em to go eat a lard-and-hair sandwich.

I will.

***

I wish something would move out there.

Where?

Out there.On the broad plain of life.

I thought that's where you meant. Me too.

Be nice, some action.

Of some import.

We could say we did something ...

With ourself.

Telling a codger who says quite properly we ain't doing shit to eat a lard-and-hair sandwich does not in the long term constitute a life.

No it does not.

Well if a war doesn't break out on you, and you don't stumble into making money, and you can't play ball, and women treat you wrong, or men, and you aren't a movie star, and you don't have any talent, and you aren't smart, etc., what are you, we, supposed to do, exactly?

Live until we die, without any more pondering than a dog, is my guess.

And that is a good guess, but it seems less a guess than the natural conclusion every hapless human being comes to on his witless own. It's a default position. It supports all dufus behavior.

Yes, it even supports "the pursuit of happiness."

Indeed it does.

***

Today we are becalmed, as we are daily becalmed.

Every day we are becalmed.

Becalmed is our middle name.

My uncle was named Jake Becalmed. His brother was Hansford Becalmed. Their brother was Cuthbert Becalmed.

No one is named Cuthbert Becalmed.

Wait. The fourth brother was Studio Becalmed.

No mother names a son Studio.

This one did.

Is it Italian?

What?

The name Studio.

We aren't Italian, is all I can say to that.

So this kid is called Studio, and what happens to him?

Well he was killed in the war.

I mean what happened to him as a result of his name.

Nothing.

Nobody razzed his ass.

No.

He was Studio, end of chapter.

As far as I know.

Studio Becalmed.

No, their name was not really Becalmed.

That was a joke.

Of sorts.

We aren't very funny, when we joke.

No. Because we are becalmed.

Studio. I like him.

I do too.

Excerpted from You & Me by Padget Powell. Copyright 2012 by Padget Powell. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins.

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