IoS paperback review: Edisto, by Padgett Powell

Striving for The Great American Novel, to comic effect

First out in the US in 1984, Padgett Powell’s delightful debut was finally published in the UK this year.

Offbeat, playful and very, very funny, it follows 12-year-old Simons Everson Manigault, a budding author, as he strolls around Edisto, South Carolina, in search of material for his shot at The Great American Novel.

The joke is that Simons is not a particularly promising writer: when we are provided with a snippet of his work it proves to be unreadable doggerel. But Powell’s own prose is wonderfully light and limber, whether he is describing a boxing match – “tiny mortals in a huddle” – or a misty morning on the Atlantic coast – “the ground moon-pocked by the night’s hard rain”.