A collection of inventive and passionate stories by one of today's most acclaimed young writers.
There are writers who follow etiquette, who invite you in and make sure that you are comfortably seated before they begin a round of proper introductions, seduce you with their careful clauses and their correct flatware and the nice meals they have prepared for you. And then there are writers who are simply so good that they don’t feel the need to ask your permission before they take you over a cliff or into a train wreck or introduce you to a dead family member or a teenage arsonist. Rick Moody is, of course, the second kind, the kind of writer who doesn’t stop to say “please” and “thank you.”
Sometimes, in fact, he does not stop at all. Reading Moody is not a placid experience. You can surface, seasick, paragraphs, pages or even an entire story later without ever having been brought to a full stop. Last week, in Central Park, I heard a very well-groomed 5-year-old boy tell another very well-groomed 5-year-old boy, “I said, ‘Period.’ That means the end of conversation.” In Moody’s work, conversations never quite come to an end — they never even resolve themselves into something resembling a denouement. On the other hand, he never allows his style to solidify into shtick; to do so would be predictable, and Moody is anything but. So within this collection, you can find a story told entirely by a list of books (“Surplus Value Books: Catalogue Number 13″) and another told as an annotation to a series of mix tapes that catalog an entire life (“Wilkie Fahnstock, the Boxed Set”). There are stories about surburban prep school boys gone bad (“Boys” and “The Carnival Tradition”), a story about retail workers (“Forecast From the Retail Desk”) and a story about a couple of failed yew-tree and ostrich farmers told from the perspective of their son (“The Double Zero”). Two stories about dead sisters act as bookends to open and close the collection — the title story and my personal favorite, “The Mansion on the Hill,” which opens with the line “The Chicken Mask was sorrowful, Sis.”
If you are a careful and voracious reader of A) Rick Moody, B) respected literary journals and glossy magazines that publish literary fiction or C) anthologies that promise you the “best of” everything that has appeared in category B during the last calendar year, you may also experience déjà vu. All of these stories have previously appeared elsewhere — the title story has been published in no fewer than four journals and/or anthologies. This is of no consequence. You should buy this book anyway. Magazines get lost and torn and are hard to store, and if you buy the anthologies, many of the other stories will not be as good as the stories in this book. And not to be trivial, but the cover art — a tube of Smarties (which the perspicacious reader will recognize from the title story) against a chlorinated swimming pool blue background — is an admixture of coolness, pop, artifice and beauty — just like the contents contained therein.
Amy Benfer is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y. More Amy Benfer.
More Related Stories
- Must-do's: What we like this week
- Josh Ritter makes his "Blood on the Tracks"
- I don't hate millennials anymore!
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11