Padgett Powell was born in Gainesville, Florida, on April 25, 1952, to Albine Batts Powell and Bettyre Palmer Powell, a brewmaster and a schoolteacher, respectively. He grew up in various cities in Florida and South Carolina. In college, Powell struggled with his English classes, opting for chemistry as a major. He graduated from the College of Charleston with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1975 and went on to graduate school at the University of Tennessee. Powell lost interest in school and left before he finished. He moved to Texas and became a roofer.
Powell enrolled in the University of Houston’s Master of Fine Arts program in fiction writing in hopes of meeting women. He studied under post-modernist author Donald Barthelme, and while a student, he developed and wrote his first novel, Edisto. Powell graduated in 1982 and, in 1984, an excerpt of Edisto appeared in the New Yorker. Later that year, the novel was published separately. The esteemed American author Saul Bellow praised Powell as a promising new writer. Edisto won recognition as a National Book Award nominee for first novel in 1984 and was listed as one of the five best books of 1984 by Time magazine, and the novel garnered the Whiting Foundation Writer’s Award for Powell. The author also received an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters’ Rome Fellowship in literature for two years, 1986 and 1988.
Also in 1984, Powell took a job teaching writing at the University of Florida, back in his birth home of Gainesville. His next two books, short story collections Typical and A Woman Named Drown , were not as successful as Powell’s first novel. Powell kept writing; however, his struggling writing career and alcoholism brought him to an all-time low. He made a bargain with himself that he would not drink...
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