Rick Moody Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Within a single decade, Rick Moody emerged as a dominant figure in the late twentieth century renaissance in realistic fiction following the decline of postmodern experimentalism. His work is notable for its radically innovative prose line and its willingness to investigate profound, often dark questions about the viability of love and family in an oppressive and uninviting contemporary world. Raised in the comfort and privilege of a white, upper-class family (his father was in finance, his maternal grandfather a legendary Manhattan publisher), Hiram Frederick Moody III grew up in the suburban affluence of Fairfield County in Connecticut. He enjoyed a private preparatory school education. Always a shy child, Moody developed a keen interest in reading and had, by his own recollection, already attempted two novels by the sixth grade. He defined the centering emotional event of his childhood as his parents’ divorce in 1970. He then began a painful adolescence of shuffling back and forth between his parents’ residences.

He studied creative writing at Brown University, most notably under novelists John Hawkes and Robert Coover, both of whom encouraged Moody to investigate how experience is brought into coherence using language as a system of understanding. Following his graduation in 1983, Moody studied in the prestigious master’s writing program at Columbia University, completing that program in 1986. At that time, Moody began to suffer from acute depression and nervous anxiety brought about, he would diagnose much later, by the lingering trauma of his absent father. He turned to alcohol and eventually to substance abuse. Quickly, Moody found himself in difficult financial circumstances and struggled to maintain his academic status while holding low-paying jobs which included house painting and fast food service. After being evicted in 1985 he moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, in an effort to save money. There he began to gather materials for his first novel.

That first manuscript, a stark, minimalist narrative focusing on the desperate and disconnected loves and family lives of New Jersey teenagers in the 1980’s, found little interest in the New York publishing community. Ironically, after 1986, Moody was working as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster and later as assistant editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, jobs in which he would read manuscripts and draft rejection notes to would-be writers like himself....

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Debord, Matthew. “Rick Moody: A Nuclear Family Meltdown.” Publishers Weekly 31 (March, 1997): 46-47. Review of Purple America also contains a wide-ranging discussion of Moody’s influences and fiction.

Matthews, Peter. “The Big Freeze.” Sight and Sound 8, no. 2 (1998): 12-14. Insightful analysis of The Ice Storm and its film treatment.

Moore, John Frederick. “Moody Indigo.” Poets & Writers 27, no. 2 (1999): 34-43. Excellent introduction to Moody’s theme of family anxieties and to his prose experiments.