Padgett Powell has received the Prix de Rome of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Whiting Writer's Award, and a nomination for the National Book Award. He teaches in Gainesville, Florida, where he was born in 1952. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper's, and many other periodicals.
Simons Everson Manigault ("You say it 'Simmons.' I'm a rare one-m Simons") lives with his mother, an eccentric professor (known as the Duchess), on an isolated and undeveloped strip of South Carolina coast. Convinced that her son can be a writer of genius, the Duchess has immersed Simons in the literary classics since birth ("Like some kids swat mobiles, I was to thumb pages") and has given him free rein to gather materials in such spots as the Baby Grand, a local black nightclub. ("It was an assignment. I'm supposed to write. I'm supposed to get good at it.")
Although possessed of a vocabulary and sophistication beyond his years, Simons feels the normal adolescent bewilderment about the behavior of his parents. His conventional father, the Progenitor, has recently left the family in a dispute over Simon's upbringing and has moved to nearby Hilton Head, where he would like to see his son raised among the orthodox surroundings of condominiums, country clubs, and private schools. At the book's center is Taurus, an enigmatic father-surrogate who tutors the boy in the art of watching the world without presumption.
Edisto is, as Walker Percy observed, "a truly remarkable first novel, both as a narrative and in its extraordinary use of language. It reminds one of The Catcher in the Rye, but it's better—sharper, funnier, and more poignant."
"When asked for a list of the best American writers of the younger generation, I invariably put the name of Padgett Powell at the top."—Saul Bellow
"[This] is distinctly a tour de force . . . I found myself increasingly charmed by the book's wit and impressed by its originality. Some turn of phrase, some flash of humor, some freshly observed detail, some accurately rendered perception of a child's pain or a child's amazement transfigures nearly every page. Powell's ear is acute: one of the pleasures of the book is his ability to catch the nuances of Southern speech, whether it is the malicious conversation of the Doctor's academic colleagues at a cocktail party or the genial banter of country folks at the fishing pier."—The New York Review of Books
"A remarkable book . . . there is not a line that simply slides by; each, in one way or another, turns things to a fresh and unexpected angle. There are splendid things said."—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Simons Manigault is brother to all literary adolescents—Mailer's D.J., Salinger's Holden Caufield, Joyce's Stephen Dedalus . . . Edisto is a sparkling read, so full of an energetic intelligence, inventiveness, love of language, and love of people . . . Padgett Powell is an extravagantly talented writer."—Ron Loewinsohn, The New York Times Book Review
"Edisto is a startling book, full of new sights, sounds, and ways if feeling. Mr. Powell weaves wonderful tapestries from ordinary speech; his people, black and white, whether speaking to each other or past each other, tells us things that we never heard before. The book is subtle, daring, and brilliant."—Donald Barthelme
"Sly, pungent, lyric, funny, and unlikely to be forgotten."—R. Z. Sheppard, Time
"Powell creates a language that captures rhythms and reflections that are at once original and true."—Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek