Picks and Pans Review: A Woman Named Drown

updated 06/15/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Padgett Powell

It's all action, a novel where every moment is movement. A young man quits grad school just before he gets his degree in science, visits a bar where boxers spar as entertainment, then meets an older woman who is an amateur actress. She has just starred in a play about a woman named Drown. She shoots pool like a shark, gardens and swills gin, and the hero moves in with her. He meets her friends, wears her late husband's golfing clothes and the two of them take off for Florida. The narrator speaks of "a bit of riveting detail," and that's what Powell delivers over and over. The author's first novel, Edisto, was a Southern gothic, a Tennessee/Capote-like confection about a precocious boy. This time we are on the border of Donald Barthelme's never-never land: a collection of those riveting details delivered in abrupt, crisp prose with nervous intensity. Powell is very funny. His characters are raffish clowns with foul mouths and a kind of crazy sweetness. This is special stuff. There's a lot of vivid life here. (Farrar Straus Giroux, $14.95)

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