Padgett Powell’s fourth work of fiction picks up several years after his first left off, on a strip of coast in the low country of South Carolina, sometime home to Simons Manigault. Simons is now out of college and trying to forestall the career expected by his ebulliently conventional father. His mother, the hard-drinking literary doctor, favors otherwise and quietly engineers the opening of other avenues to her son. One of these is scandalous. We meet again Powell’s distinctive supporting cast: the longtime caretaker, Athenia; Jake, the solid bartender of Simons’s childhood hangout, the Baby Grand; the displaced, confused gentry; and the mysterious Taurus, whose lack of presumption marks Simons as both boy and man. A significant newcomer is Simons’s cousin Patricia Hod, depicted with the narrator’s usual combination of sardonic humor and dead seriousness.
Praise & Reviews
“There was a time when the ideal Southern gentleman was stiff in his bearing and almost Prussian in his certitude. However, Simons Manigault, Powell’s upper-class creation from the Carolina coast, sloughs off with a conceit endemic to his generation of literary characters. More in keeping with the Southern stereotype, the novel begins with Simons having a short but steamy affair with first-cousin Patricia-a woman “who knew what to do with herself.” This proves too much for poor recent college graduate Simons, who escapes for a series of adventures deeper south. He tries his hand at fishing in Corpus Christi, quits, and again flees, this time to visit with Taurus, Simons’s alcoholic mother’s former lover, who is a game warden in the deepest bayou in Louisiana. All the while he debates accepting the responsibility concomitant with adulthood. The strange settings and vivid characterizations make up for a plot that does little to advance the coming-of-age motif. Yet Powell’s writing summons the climate and character of the South in a visceral way that only a few of its sons have managed. ”
“Brilliant prose…with his wit, his dazzling terms of phrase, and his utter disdain for middle-brow political correctness, Mr. Powell is like a fabulous guest at a dinner party.”
— Scott Spencer, The New York Times Book Review
“Powell returns to the coastal South Carolina town that was the setting for his first novel, Edisto (1984), and though it’s years later, his “lost souls” haven’t exactly found themselves. Thank goodness for that, for nobody needs platitudes when we have Powell’s inimitably goofy sententiousness—a compendium of boozy wit and dyspeptic wisdom.”