Two stand-up comics without a script. Just riffing back and forth on anything two white males, somewhere between Jacksonville, Florida, and Bakersfield, California, can think up. And that covers a considerable amount of territory, from Jayne Mansfield's natural endowments to why anyone thought they could sell something called oleomargarine. Mildly politically incorrect, using a sometimes salty vocabulary Amazon wouldn't allow in a review, the language is simply over-the-top original.
Comparing it to Beckett's Waiting for Godot is misleading. Both works consist entirely of the dialog between two male characters, and in each case the subject matter stutters and wanders, but Godot is as much movement and silence as dialog. Powell revs up the velocity fairly high, leaving little room for anything other than the dialog. There are made-up words, convoluted logic and a verbal interplay I've seldom encountered. It is very much of the United States in the early 21st century, yet it is also any two old guys getting together for a gab. "Mine is the weak strength of bluster."
Each section is labeled "&" because each is just another riff, another of the same, and the dialog is cumulative. We are introduced to Studio Becalmed early in the book, and he bobs back up every few pages, often with his love, Jayne Mansfield. "We have need of adventure. Let us have one. Summon Studio Becalmed." This circling of people and things (lard-and-hair sandwich is my favorite) adds to the pleasure since you can see these inanities from various angles. I mean who knew that you could include lard-and-hair sandwich in at least a dozen scenarios?
Many words are made up, but you always know what is meant, and feel that now you have read it, of course such a word is real...
"The base percentage of crackpottage remains the same."
"leg-sawing racket-specializing insects"
"Do you feel free? I feel as free as a green jujube being wedged from its red brothers in the box. Spring forth, jujube. Jujube the man!"
"When I take that multivitamin without eating something I feel a little upchucky."
And to finish this review I'll give you a larger chunk of Powellisms:
Did we party last night?
Not, to my knowledge, beyond the usual, the genteel talktail party we always hold. Why?
Because I notice that all the knobs to the stove are off the stove.
They are gone?
No, on the kitchen floor.
Neatly or scattered?
I would say they are in a configuration that is between neat and scattered. As if they fell from the stove behaving like apples falling from the tree are wont to behave: not far.
That is an interesting idea, stove knobs as fruit of the stove.
Well, the fruit is on the ground.
I am without answer.
A stove-knob burglar came in and was frightened off the booty by something?
One of us sleepwalks and likes to pull appliances apart? Were you punished for playing with the stove as a wee?
Did another appliance molest the stove - did the toaster oven pull her knobs off? Did a bull come into our china shop? I would like to know who coined that conceit, the bull in the china shop, it is not bad at all.
I wonder if a bull has ever actually got into a china shop.
I would think, in the long reach of time, it not unlikely, at least once. A bull running, say, down a street in Spain could easily detour into a fine shop. Remember your laws of thermodynamics. I'll say it was Dickens, Sterne, one of those guys.
I am a little depressed.
I am too.
We should reknob the stove.
I'm going to. I left them on the floor only for evidentiary purposes. The crime will not be solved, we might as well sweep up the evidence.
That could be our motto for Life. Life will not be explained; sweep away the evidence.