Do you know what the interrogative mood is? If you had an opportunity to learn, would you take careful notes? Would the prospect of a pop quiz on the subject matter increase or decrease your motivation to learn the material? Does the topic of grammatical mood interest you in the least? If someone were incorrectly using the subjunctive mood, would you correct him or her? Have you ever played 20 questions? Do you ever ask questions without concern to actually answering them? Do you think it is possible for someone to compose a 160-plus page book entirely of questions? Do you get annoyed when people ask too many questions, or do you find it oddly interesting?
Today is the birthday of novelist Padgett Powell, born in Gainsville, Florida in 1952. Powell has taught writing at the University of Florida for more than 20 years, and he has published six novels, as well as three collections of short stories. His most intriguing work, however, is a book entitled The Interrogative Mood, A Novel? In case you are unfamiliar with the term, interrogative mood, it simply refers to questions — as in what you are asked when you are interrogated. And Powell’s book is full of them. In fact, it is nothing but questions. So, instead of a typical novel that features a narrator, The Interrogative Mood features an interrogator.
There are four basic moods in English; A sentence’s word order and specifically the position of its main verb changes depending on its mood. If, for example, you were writing about the topic of buying a car, you would craft your sentences differently depending on your grammatical mood, which should not be confused with your emotional mood:
-Indicative Mood deals with matter-of-fact statements: I think I’m going to buy myself a new car.
-Imperative Mood deals with commands: Stop talking about buying a new car, and just do it.
-Subjunctive Mood deals with hypotheticals or wishes: If I were rich, I would buy a new car.
-Interrogative Mood deals with questions: Should I buy a new car?
Clearly, Powell’s preferred mood is the interrogative. In the course of the 160-plus pages of his book, he asks roughly 2,000 questions without giving a single answer.
Here’s a small sample:
Can you read music? Would it be reasonable to ask someone if he or she has a favorite musical note? Would you like to visit a tar pit or a peat bog, or would you rather eat cucumber sandwiches on a pleasant veranda with a civilized hostess in England? Will you wear a garment with a small tear in it? Do you cry at movies where you are intended to cry, or at other points in the drama, or not at all?
Powell got started asking questions when he noticed that some of his university colleagues wrote emails to him composed entirely of questions. He began composing his own witty replies, all in the interrogative mood (1).
Today’s Challenge: Interrogative or Imperative? Choose one!
Would you prefer to write entirely in the interrogative mood or the imperative mood? Follow Powell’s example and write a composition composed of at least 20 questions. Try to vary the length of your questions – some long, some medium, some short. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
Imagine you were to compose a novel called The Imperative Mood – Buy This Novel Now!. Compose the first 200 words writing in the imperative mood: sentences that are commands. Do it now. Don’t wait, and don’t procrastinate.
Quotation of the Day: A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy? -Albert Einstein
1-Powell, Padget. The Interrogative Mood. Ecco, 2010.