Moody in Lyon, France - May 2009
|Born||Hiram Frederick Moody III
October 18, 1961
New York City, United States
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer, essayist, composer|
1992 - present
Hiram Frederick "Rick" Moody III (born October 18, 1961) is an American novelist and short story writer best known for the 1994 novel The Ice Storm, a chronicle of the dissolution of two suburban Connecticut families over Thanksgiving weekend in 1973, which brought him widespread acclaim, became a bestseller, and was made into a feature film of the same title. Many of his works have been praised by fellow writers and critics alike, and in 1999 The New Yorker chose him as one of America's most talented young writers, listing him on their "20 Writers for the 21st Century" list.
Life and work
Moody was born in New York City, the son of Margaret Maureen (Flynn) and Hiram Frederick Moody, Jr. He grew up in several of the Connecticut suburbs, including Darien and New Canaan, where he later set stories and novels. He graduated from St. Paul's School in New Hampshire and Brown University.
He received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University in 1986; nearly two decades later he would criticize the program in an essay in The Atlantic Monthly. Soon after finishing his thesis, he checked himself into a mental hospital for alcoholism. Once sober and while working for Farrar, Straus and Giroux, he wrote his first novel, Garden State, about young people growing up in the industrial wasteland of northern New Jersey, where he was living at the time. In his introduction to a reprint of the novel, he called it the most "naked" thing he has written. Garden State won the Pushcart Editor's Choice Award.
In 2006, Arizona State Senator Thayer Verschoor cited complaints he had received about The Ice Storm as part of the reason he supported a measure allowing students to refuse assignments they find "personally offensive." Verschoor said that "There’s no defense of this book. I can’t believe that anyone would come up here and try to defend that kind of material," although eventually numerous professors did so.
Moody's memoir The Black Veil (2002) won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. He has also received the Addison Metcalf Award, the Paris Review Aga Khan Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Conjunctions, Harper's, Details, The New York Times, and Grand Street.
The Diviners was released in 2005. Little, Brown and Company, the publisher of The Diviners, changed the cover after the galleys came out because women reacted negatively to it. The original cover showed a Conan the Barbarian-type image in technicolor orange; the new cover uses that same image, but frames it as a scene on a movie screen.
The Diviners was followed in 2007 by Right Livelihoods, a collection of three novellas published in Britain and Ireland as The Omega Force.
The Four Fingers of Death was released July 28, 2010 by Little, Brown and Company.
In 2012 he won Fernanda Pivano Award in Italy.
In addition to his fiction, Moody is a musician and composer. He belongs to a group called the Wingdale Community Singers, which he describes as performing "woebegone and slightly modernist folk music, of the very antique variety." Moody composed the song "Free What's-his-name," performed by Fly Ashtray on their 1997 EP Flummoxed, collaborated with One Ring Zero on the EP Rick Moody and One Ring Zero in 2004, and also contributed lyrics to One Ring Zero's albums As Smart As We Are, Memorandum, and Planets. In 2006, an essay by Moody was included in Sufjan Stevens's box-set Songs for Christmas.
Moody has taught at Yale University, Princeton University, the State University of New York at Purchase and Bennington College, and currently teaches at New York University. He lives in Brooklyn and Dutchess County, and he is married to the visual artist Laurel Nakadate.
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Literary critics have praised Moody's writing.
The Washington Post reviewed Moody’s collection of novellas Right Livelihoods, describing "The Albertine Notes" as “one of the best stories to appear in the new millennium; it underscores that Rick Moody is one of our best writers.” Irish weekly The Sunday Business Post called the story “a symbolic reaction to the crisis of instability in American identity today” and remarked that the collection as a whole “brilliantly reflects the unease and baroque insecurities of the post-9/11 nation."
His 2005 novel The Diviners received praise in multiple reviews:[from whom?] “In this affectionate but unflinching cautionary tale about vanity, ambition, and life's unlikely paths, Rick Moody delivers a masterpiece of comedy that will bring him to a still higher level of appreciation.”
Of the novel The Ice Storm (later produced as the movie starring Sigourney Weaver), Hungry Mind Review commented that it “works on so many levels, and is so smartly written, that it should establish Rick Moody as one of his generation's bellwether voices."
Reviews of Moody’s novel Purple America continued in this vein.[ambiguous] Salon commented: "Reading Purple America can feel like dancing a quadrille with four very different partners. On we go, propelled from consciousness to consciousness by Moody's prodigious gift for ventriloquism and large, supple vocabulary." Details was also positive: "You come up gasping on the last page." And Booklist states: "Closely interknitting his narrative with the lyrical, soaring monologues of all the key players, Moody effortlessly moves from one striking passage to the next....it's the characters' voices, so full of urgency and distress, that are unforgettable."
Michael Chabon and Thomas Pynchon gave high praise for the memoir, The Black Veil, the former calling it "a unique blend of wrenching emotion and human playfulness," the latter saying Moody "writing with boldness, humor, generosity of spirit, and a welcome sense of wrath, takes the art of the memoir an important step into its future."
The Review of Contemporary Fiction, in their June 2003 issue, says of Moody's writing:
"Within Moody's fictional treatments, the reader is necessarily one step removed from experience. We are engaged within a tight fuselage-world of the rendered text, an intricate and highly original language system wherein lurks characters sustained by the exertion of words, like the music sustained by the exertion of piano keys. Indeed, Moody's characters are like word-chords whose considerable tribulations and emotional woundings are never the central fact of the text, but rather convincing casings, occasions to press ink on paper. Voices emerge--language projections that ignite from plot moments, from brutal experience set to the available music of language, characters finally as sonic events who inhabit a geography of print."
Lydia Millet, in a 2001 article for The Village Voice, described Moody as "equipped with subtle but powerful typographic tools—the vibrant and pervasive Bernhardian italic phrase, pregnant with meaning, the elegant Joycean em dash denoting dialogue—Moody strikes me as a self-styled avenging angel of highbrow literary cool. Underneath the Clark Kentish exterior lurks a crypto-Superman schooled in semiotics and steeped in pop culture, one eyebrow permanently raised at the unsightly stupidity of the masses."
Novelist and critic Dale Peck unfavorably reviewed Moody's The Black Veil in The New Republic, a review so harsh it has become infamous in literary circles. Peck began the review with the sentence "Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation," arguing that Moody's writing is "pretentious, muddled, derivative, [and] bathetic" and claiming, "I am not convinced that Moody's books are about anything at all."
Peck's complaints against Moody's writing have been echoed by other critics. In her review of The Diviners, Christine Smallwood writes, "[Rick Moody is] probably not the worst writer of his generation. But he is absolutely the most overrated." She describes the novel as "bloated, repetitive, rambling, gurgling, churning and miserably undeveloped."
Moody's next novel, The Four Fingers of Death, also received a critical drubbing. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Sam Sack takes Moody to task for his "ethos of excess" and describes the novel as "hair-brained and largely unreadable." Sack concludes his review thus:
In the most notorious book-review pillory of the past decade, Dale Peck branded Mr. Moody "the worst writer of his generation." It was hyperbole at the time, an attention grabber, but it's the sort of line that can easily turn into an epitaph. You'd think, then, that Mr. Moody would apply himself to writing novels that proved Mr. Peck wrong. Instead, with "The Four Fingers of Death" he has chosen to embrace the reputation.
Moody's music writing has also drawn heavy criticism. In the online journal The Rumpus, Moody slammed pop-country star Taylor Swift and her music, labeling her lyrics "artificial and repellent" and equating its interest to that of Olestra-based products, Swiffers, tiered Jell-O dessert products, home cosmetic surgery, and rectal bleaching. After numerous commenters objected to the tone and substance of Moody's anti-Swift screed, Moody took to Salon to defend himself.
Moody's pieces on The Rumpus and Salon were the subject of a critical piece by writer, editor, and music critic Maura Johnston. Johnston writes that she has "always found Moody’s prose overworked and his opinions in need of a contrapuntal eye-roll or two" and that Moody's comparison of Swift to Natalie Imbruglia and Alanis Morissette fails her test for writing about female musicians. She concludes: "The subhead of Moody’s rebuttal asks, 'Why do serious critics swoon for [Swift's] narcissistic, hackneyed pap?' Which is funny, because both of his Swift pieces had me wondering the same thing—only about those people who might smugly concur with Moody’s deeply purple prose and stuck-in-the-mud ideals of what music 'should' be."
The author's disparaging take on Daft Punk and their album Random Access Memories received critical blowback of its own. In a piece titled "Critics, Don't Be Like Rick Moody," Flavorwire Deputy Editor Tom Hawking slams Moody for his tone and his inability to build a convincing argument: "The problem with this sort of criticism is that it doesn’t achieve anything...It’s ultimately about dick-waving — at proving yourself to be articulate, and fascinating, and a worthy antagonist."
- Garden State (1992)
- The Ice Storm (1994)
- Purple America (1996)
- The Diviners (2005)
- The Four Fingers of Death (2010)
- Hotels of North America (2015)
- Short fiction
- Boys (2001, part of Demonology)
- Fiction collections
- The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven (novella and stories, 1995)
- Demonology (stories, 2001)
- Right Livelihoods (novellas, 2007)
- The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions (2002)
- On Celestial Music: And Other Adventures in Listening (2012)
- Surplus Value Books: Catalog Number 13 (Illustrated by David Ford) (1999)
- As editor or contributor
- Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited (co-editor, with Darcey Steinke, and contributor) (1997)
- The Magic Kingdom, by Stanley Elkin (introduction to the Dalkey Archives trade paperback reprint) (2000)
- A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by Joseph Cornell (contributor) (2001)
- The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy (introduction to the Oxford World's Classics edition) (2002)
- Lithium for Medea, by Kate Braverman (introduction to the Seven Stories Press trade paperback reprint) (2002)
- Twilight: Photographs by Gregory Crewdson (text) (2002)
- "William Gaddis: A Portfolio." Conjunctions #41 (2003)
- Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible (contributor, short fiction envisioning a modern-day Jonah) (2004)
- The Wilco Book (contributor) (2004)
- The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel (introduction) (2006)
- The Flash (contributor) (2007)
- The Rumpus (Music blogger) (2009)
- J R, by William Gaddis (introduction to the Dalkey Archive trade paperback reprint) (2012)
- Podcast appearances
- Moody appeared on Ken Reid's TV Guidance Counselor podcast on December 30, 2015.
- "Writers and Mentors by Rick Moody". The Atlantic Monthly. August 2005. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
- "The Art of Fiction No. 166: Rick Moody, interviewed by David Ryan". The Paris Review. Issue 158, Spring-Summer 2001. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
- "Avoid Whatever Offends You by Scott Jaschik". Inside Higher Ed. February 27, 2006. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
- "Book Misjudged by Its Cover Gets (What Else?) New Cover by Edward Wyatt". The New York Times. August 24, 2005. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
- "Rick Moody's Amazon Blog: The Wingdales". Amazon.com. November 2, 2006. Archived from the original on January 1, 2008. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
- "Flummoxed EP CD". BestPrices.com. n.d. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
- "One Ring Zero: About". One Ring Zero. c. 2006. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
- "The Rest of the Best". Critical Mass: The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle. June 1, 2006. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
- "Young Lions Fiction Award".
- "18:59 Podcast: About". 18:59 Podcast. c. 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
- Hand, Elizabeth (July 1, 2007). "Searching for Lost Time". Washington Post. Retrieved November 17, 2013.
- "Unsettling glimpse into the mindset of post-9/11 America by Val Nolan". The Sunday Business Post. April 27, 2008. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
- "Judge and Jury by Erin Keane". Salon. July 24, 2011. Retrieved August 2, 2011. "They [writer-on-writer critical reviews] linger in the critical memory, like Dale Peck’s infamous charge in the New Republic that Rick Moody was, and we quote, "the worst writer of his generation". That review was crucial to a buzzed-about manifesto decrying nasty "snark", penned by another novelist, Heidi Julavits, in the Believer.
- "The Moody Blues by Dale Peck". The New Republic. July 4, 2002. Retrieved 2011-08-02.
- Christine Smallwood (22 September 2005). "The Blank Verses". The Nation.
- Sam Sacks (26 July 2010). "Book review: The Four Fingers of Death". WSJ.
- "Swinging Modern Sounds #40: A Miscellany Of Musical Thoughts That Will Not Otherwise Appear - The Rumpus.net". The Rumpus.net.
- Rick Moody. "I dared criticize Taylor Swift". Salon.
- "Maura Magazine - Post-Menopausal Antiquing, Or: Please, Rick Moody, Just Quit It".
- "Critics, Don’t Be Like Rick Moody on Daft Punk". Flavorwire. March 24, 2014.
- Rick Moody. Hotels of North America. Amazon.com. ISBN 9780316178556.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rick Moody.|
- David Ryan (Spring–Summer 2001). "Rick Moody, The Art of Fiction No. 166". The Paris Review.
- Moody reads "Twister" from The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven (Audio) at Salon.com (2000)
- Salon "Writing in the dark", an essay at Salon.com (2001)
- Short Story: "Fragment from an Untelevised Revolution" on Fictionaut