Padgett Powell


BLVR: How long were you writing before Edisto was published? Can you remember some of the things you were working on?

PP: I wrote figments of Edisto in college as early as 1972. Scruff Taurus wrote a column called “Fighting About Writing” in the school newspaper I edited. I did sketches of him beating up members of the English department there, and used them to try to charm the professor I eventually would model the Doctor on. It worked. She said the writing was good. I said the things were a joke, cartoons. She said she knew that but the prose was strong. Here was the birth of the literary mother. She soon found out I had not read Faulkner and, appalled, gave me her copy of Absalom, Absalom! That is the birth of the literarily mothered boy.

This writing and some more that would become the early stuff of Edisto was stolen in a roofing truck in San Antonio around 1976. I envisioned my pages blowing about the desert at Eagle Pass, Texas, where I imagined the truck being taken into Mexico. I think I had about forty pages, the first three chapters of the book, when I met Barthelme in 1981. He said, “You’ve thought about this a bit.” “Yes.” “You’ll settle down. You’re just nervous. Give me all you’ve got.” He was referring to a certain ersatz-Faulkner alignment things had taken. The book was then taking more literally the Doctor’s desire that her son sound like a writer, perhaps specifically like those whose books she had given him.

more from The Believer interview here.