A Novel Written Solely in Questions

Am reading Padgett Powell’s The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? right now and it’s actually very good, in spite of (or because of) its appalling constraint.

And Rick Moody’s review thereof is a good read as well:

Yes, it’s true. Padgett Powell’s new “novel” is a highly allusive prose work composed entirely of questions. Many reviewers of this book, I suspect, will attempt to admonish the questioner with further questions, wondering at the gumption of the thing. But it might be useful instead to answer some of the questions posed. In this regard I have chosen questions at random, at intervals of about twenty pages, in the hopes of giving the flavor of the whole, while, at the same time, attempting some context for this offhanded, witty, original, and altogether unique book.

Q: Are your emotions pure?

A: This very first inquiry in The Interrogative Mood suggests . . .

And now a question of my own: Can anyone think of a novel that attempted to do this previously? Seems like there must be one somewhere in the annals of literature . . .

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Gilbert Sorrentino did it way back in 2000 with his novel Gold Fools–a pastiche of boys’ adventure novels. Every sentence was a question. Great book. If I recall he had a story from quite a bit earlier that was sort of a forerunner of this, before he expanded it into a novel.

Mexican author Gustavo Sainz also wrote a novel -La muchacha que tenía la culpa de todo- only using questions back in 1995.

There’s a couple more- Padgett mentioned one from the 70s last night at his reading (though I can’t remember the title, of course). He’s reading at the Brooklyn Public Library tonight if anyone’s in NY. He’s a great reader, totally deadpan and irrevelant in the best way.

Not exactly a novel, Ron Silliman’s Sunset Debris, the forty-page middle section of his longpoem The Age of Huts, is all questions. Originally published some time in the late 1970s, it was reprinted as part of the “Compleat” Age of Huts in 2007. Silliman’s continuation of the Age of Huts, The Alphabet, was reviewed in the Conversation Quarterly.

What abot Max Frisch Fragebogen (Questionnaire)?


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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