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Padgett Powell's third collection, Cries for Help, Various, includes forty-four stories, some very short, that follow his mentor Donald Barthelme's advice that 'the wacky mode must break readers' hearts.' The surrealistic and comical terrain of most of the stories is grounded in their real preoccupation with longing, fear, work, loneliness, and cultural nostalgia. The language and thinking is lofty and low, cranky and heartfelt, exuberant and inconsolable. Powell's characters are rebels against convention whose concerns are less for independence than for the maintenance of sanity, the romance of giving up.