Adam Begley (review date 29 May 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Entering Gothic Suburbia, Where Dysfunction Romps Across Tidy Lawns,” in Chicago Tribune Books, May 29, 1994, p. 5.

[In the following positive review of The Ice Storm, Begley commends Moody's “keen observation and sympathy for human suffering,” though finds shortcomings in the novel's unnecessary “literary flourishes.”]

Novelists don't like to be lumped into categories or ushered into the unwelcome company of other, supposedly similar writers, but mankind is a classifying animal, and besides, really good writers outlast the labels applied to them. Rick Moody's The Ice Storm, a bitter and loving and damning tribute to the American...

(The entire section is 833 words.)

Brooke Allen (essay date June 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Cheever Country, 1994,” in New Criterion, Vol. 12, No. 10, June, 1994, pp. 58–65.

[In the following excerpt, Allen offers a favorable evaluation of The Ice Storm, which she places in the tradition of American WASP novels and contrasts with the fiction of John Updike and John Cheever.]

The landscape is much the same as it was a generation ago. American suburbia has changed remarkably little, despite the advent of malls and bypasses, guns and drugs. Suburbia is a landscape of the mind, a utopian experiment. Its failures may be obvious: the protected model communities have proved no safe haven from divorce, alcoholism, suicide and violence. But the...

(The entire section is 1830 words.)

Alexander Harrison (review date 5 August 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Old-Fashioned Families,” in Times Literary Supplement, August 5, 1994, p. 18.

[In the following review, Harrison offers a favorable assessment of The Ice Storm.]

New Canaan, the setting for Rick Moody's second novel, The Ice Storm, is a suburb from Hell. Understandably, the people who live there have problems. Ben Hood, “the dad in what follows,” thinks love is “close to indebtedness” and has married Elena to pay the debt. She simply believes he proposed “out of lack of imagination.” Their son, Paul, is a “garbage head … a loser,” incapable of spending a straight and sober day at his exclusive boarding-school. During the...

(The entire section is 498 words.)

Ellen Akins (review date 7 August 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Voices in the Night,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 7, 1994, p. 15.

[In the following review, Akins offers a positive assessment of The Ice Storm.]

This is not so much a novel as an excavation—of that nearly but not quite extinct entity the nuclear family as it was in those dark ages, the 1970s. The argot, the foibles, the fads and the artifacts: They're all here [in The Ice Storm], meticulously catalogued and historically framed with discussions of the design, politics and groping psychology of the period. In the midst of this exactingly reconstructed rubble we find the Hoods, a family of four. Because the Hoods live in the...

(The entire section is 755 words.)

Richard Eder (review date 20 August 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Dropping Out,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 20, 1995, p. 3.

[In the following review of The Ring of Brightest Angels around Heaven, Eder commends Moody's narrative skill and humor, but concludes that the stories in this collection are marred by literary artifice and “a lack of authorial conviction.”]

If Rick Moody were an innkeeper instead of a story writer, his guests would admire the striking decor of the rooms but be less pleased, perhaps, at finding Moody lying in the bed.

The title novella and many of the stories in The Ring of Brightest Angels around Heaven have both a surface and an expressive...

(The entire section is 868 words.)

Alexander Laurence (review date Spring 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Ring of Brightest Angels around Heaven, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring, 1996, p. 154.

[In the following review, Laurence praises Moody's stylistic experimentation in The Ring of Brightest Angels around Heaven.]

The celebrated author of the innovative novel The Ice Storm surprises us again with a totally unconventional collection of stories [The Ring of Brightest Angels around Heaven] that explore the idea of form. The title story, a novella actually, contemplates the Lower East Side with its heroin use and its sex clubs, the peep shows of Times Square, bondage, and the art scene. We follow three different characters from separate milieus of society. Rick Moody definitely lives inside of these creepy places as he portrays characters rarely seen, while another side of his brain is very literary. In “The Preliminary Notes” the narrator writes in deposition form a story about taping his wife's phone calls while she is having an affair. One story is based on a term paper dealing with the Book of Revelations, another is written in the form of a film treatment. In “The James Dean Garage Band” we follow the struggles of a failed rock band. Finally in “Primary Sources” we have an autobiography of Moody with footnotes and important books. Moody polishes the world with his sharp-focused prose, and gambles here with a range of styles. The stories reminded me of Calvino and Borges, but updated and not derivative at all, and given an injection of that all-important American energy. Moody is definitely the real thing.

Rick Moody with Matthew Debord (interview date 31 March 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Rick Moody: A Nuclear Family Meltdown,” in Publishers Weekly, March 31, 1997, pp. 46–47.

[In the following interview, Debord provides an overview of Moody's life and career and includes Moody's comments on his fiction, literary beginnings, and the publication of Purple America.]

Rick Moody digs black: black-leather motorcycle jacket, black jeans, black shirt, black combat boots and black horn-rimmed glasses. The car he's rented to tool around Saratoga Springs, N.Y., during a stint at Yaddo, is white, but that seems beyond his chromatic control. “They're all either white or teal, right?” he says, steering with both hands, as though maybe driving is...

(The entire section is 1978 words.)

David Nicholson (review date 8 April 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Taking Care of Mother,” in Washington Post, April 8, 1997, p. B2.

[In the following review of Purple America, Nicholson finds the novel hindered by Moody's indulgent prose and “stylistic quirks.”]

This novel about a day in the life of a troubled New England family opens with a scene of almost unbearable intensity as Dexter “Hex” Raitliffe bathes, clothes and spoon-feeds his mother, who's crippled by a debilitating multiple sclerosis-like disease. It's a poignant four pages that reaches for, and sometimes achieves, an almost religious solemnity: “Whosoever knows the folds and complexities of his own mother's body, he shall never die...

(The entire section is 828 words.)

Michael Frank (review date 20 April 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Purple Haze,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 20, 1997, p. 12.

[In the following review, Frank maintains that Purple America is “an original and reverberative novel” despite finding shortcomings in the novel's characterizations and unsatisfying ending.]

Purple America, is a robust book. It is a book whose capacious arms reach up out of the bold second sentence—four pages long and surprisingly assured—to embrace a striking range of thought, memory and feeling. These arms manage to grasp people longing and people loving; people seeking and people struggling; people in deep distress, both physical and psychological; and people...

(The entire section is 1657 words.)

Andy Solomon (review date 11 May 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Full Day: Rick Moody's Rich, Dazzling Novel of 24 Hours in the Life of a Troubled Family,” in Chicago Tribune Books, May 11, 1997, p. 5.

[In the following review, Solomon offers a positive assessment of Purple America.]

Rick Moody's extraordinary third novel [Purple America] covers just one fateful day in the lives of the troubled Raitliffe family, yet seldom has an author crowded so much substance into 24 hours.

Billie Raitliffe, 70, has spent two decades in her opulent Connecticut home wasting away with a neurological disease. She has lost her eyesight, her speech, her muscular functions and finally her will to live. And now,...

(The entire section is 834 words.)

Paul Maliszewski (review date Fall 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Purple America, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. XVII, No. 3, Fall, 1997, pp. 226–27.

[In the following review, Maliszewski offers a positive assessment of Purple America.]

In a traditional allegory characters stand in for their qualities. Goodness, Courage, and Charity stride about, going head-to-head and hand-to-hand with their well-known evil twins. In both The Ice Storm, his last novel, and Purple America, Rick Moody writes a kind of demographic allegory. Characters in the novel are at once people in an unfolding drama as well as a segment of the American population, recognizable pieces of the most recent census,...

(The entire section is 485 words.)

Daphne Merkin (review date 29 September 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Family Matters,” in New Yorker, September 29, 1997, pp. 86–7.

[In the following excerpt, Merkin offers a tempered assessment of the film adaptation of The Ice Storm.]

Here's what I can't figure out about The Ice Storm, the intelligent but curiously remote movie that's been made from Rick Moody's novel: Is the anomie—the soul rot—that eats away at everyone in it best attributed to suburbia, to the seventies, or to the human condition as exemplified by the involutions of Yankee character? The movie is set in New Canaan, Connecticut, and affluent suburbs are always suspect—suggesting, as they do, an implicitly failed American ideal, with...

(The entire section is 708 words.)

Frank Moher (review date December 1997–January 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Way It Was,” in Saturday Night, Vol. 112, No. 10, December 1997–January 1998, p. 14.

[In the following review of The Ice Storm, Moher objects to Moody's portrayal of New Canaan suburbanites as effete and aimless, citing as evidence his own positive experiences in New Canaan as a teenager during the early 1970s.]

I entered high school in New Canaan, Connecticut, in 1969, which makes me precisely contemporary with the teenage characters in Rick Moody's novel The Ice Storm, now a movie by Ang Lee. The Ice Storm is an anthropological dig into post-sixties confusion and suburban ennui. It makes New Canaan out to be a sort of Peyton...

(The entire section is 797 words.)

Jane Lampmann (review date 26 February 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Gospel Musings by Younger Authors,” in Christian Science Monitor, February 26, 1998, p. B3.

[In the following review, Lampmann offers a positive assessment of Joyful Noise.]

A thought-provoking anthology of essays, Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited is a conscious attempt to enter into today's public debate about the values we live by.

Concerned that public discussion on spiritual and moral values is dominated by fundamentalist Christianity, the two editors—raised in religious households—called on fellow artists to speak about their personal experience with the Bible. They sought fresh insights about familiar scriptures...

(The entire section is 580 words.)

Paul Quinn (review date 27 February 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Slanted Types,” in Times Literary Supplement, February 27, 1998, p. 22.

[In the following review, Quinn offers a positive assessment of Purple America.]

If the stuttering, alcoholic, Hex Raitliffe is the official and somewhat over-qualifiedly anti-hero of Purple America, Rick Moody's third, and best, novel, the book's unofficial Chorus is provided by, and in, italics. At one level, the book is, like Moody's acclaimed The Ice Storm (1994), an exercise in social comedy and observation—this time depicting an upscale Connecticut family's encounter with the bleak realities of deterioration of the body, the environment and the modern...

(The entire section is 880 words.)

Alexander Star (review date 19 March 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Following the Fall-Out,” in London Review of Books, March 19, 1998, pp. 22–23.

[In the following review, Star provides an overview of Moody's thematic preoccupations and artistic development from Garden State to Purple America.]

Like much of Rick Moody's previous work, Purple America charts the lives of the ‘slovenly, affluent’ young. It's not an especially good life. Moody's characters are distinctly unhappy, unformed, unable to proceed with their lives in anything like a reasonable way. Instead, they gradually succumb to a set of local problems. When the logic of crisis is put in motion, the outlook further darkens. In Moody's novels,...

(The entire section is 2427 words.)

Thomas J. Brady (essay date 3 June 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Veiled Look into Voicing the Unspeakable,” in Philadelphia Inquirer, June 3, 1998, p. Q02.

[In the following essay, Brady provides an overview of Moody's life, fiction, and literary career.]

Who was that masked man? It might just be Rick Moody.

Seems he's been wearing a handkerchief or black veil over his face occasionally as part of his research into a freewheeling nonfiction book about a long-ago relative nicknamed Handkerchief Moody.

Handkerchief—who died in 1820—donned the veil for the last 10 or 15 years of his life out of remorse for having accidentally killed his best childhood friend with a firearm.

...

(The entire section is 816 words.)

Sally E. Parry (review date Summer 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Joyful Noise, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. XVIII, No. 2, Summer, 1998, p. 258.

[In the following review, Parry offers a positive assessment of Joyful Noise.]

Joyful Noise is an eclectic collection of essays on religion in general and the New Testament in particular by mostly young, contemporary writers including Madison Smartt Bell, Benjamin Cheever, Barry Hannah, bell hooks, and Joanna Scott. It is a pleasure to see an engagement with spirituality in a less than dogmatic manner, by writers who represent a variety of interpretations and come from backgrounds ranging from white, heterosexual, and Christian to...

(The entire section is 303 words.)

Rick Moody with Fran Dilustro Gordon (interview date March–April 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Moody on Dark Humor, Bright Angels, and Quantum Leaps,” in Poets & Writers, Vol. 27, No. 2, March–April, 1999, pp. 37, 39, 41.

[In the following interview, Moody discusses the themes and writing of Purple America, his views on spirituality and morality, and the development of his prose style and artistic concerns.]

[Gordon:] Your work seems to center on how spirit might illuminate the soulless structure of social process. Are you aware of this when you write? And how important a role does social conscience play in your work?

[Moody:] Well, I certainly thought of Purple America as being a book that tried...

(The entire section is 1793 words.)

John Frederick Moore (essay date March–April 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Moody Indigo,” in Poets & Writers, Vol. 27, No. 2, March–April, 1999, pp. 34–43.

[In the following essay, Moore provides an overview of Moody's life and literary career, his artistic and thematic preoccupations, and the development of his fictional concerns and prose style.]

You'd never know from looking at Rick Moody that he's been dubbed the heir to the literary tradition of John Cheever. With his shag of bleach-blond hair, worn-out blue jeans, and high-top sneakers, he seems more like someone you'd find working at a bookstore than someone who's written books that grace bookstore shelves. You wouldn't think he's the type of guy who packs them in...

(The entire section is 3439 words.)

Robert MacFarlane (review date 27 October 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “In a State of Irony,” in Times Literary Supplement, October 27, 2000, p. 23.

[In the following review, MacFarlane finds Demonology to be “an uneven collection,” despite the presence of several strong stories in the book.]

At one point in Todd Solondz's 1998 film Happiness, a female novelist is talking to her sister on the telephone, while her bronzed and unclad lover lifts weights. “You know, people put New Jersey down,” she tells her sister. “None of my friends can actually believe I live here, but they just don't get it—I'm living in a state of irony.” New Jersey, dubbed the Garden State in a fit of bucolic irony by its...

(The entire section is 851 words.)

Jean Charbonneau (review date 4 February 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Moody Rips the Suburbs Again,” in Toronto Star, February 4, 2001, p. BK-03.

[In the following review, Charbonneau offers a positive assessment of Demonology.]

The narrator of one of the stories in American Rick Moody's Demonology argues that soft rock music is “like a perfumed glob of used toilet tissue or a sample of imitation American cheese food product or meatless chili.” The same could be said for too many books of fiction—all light prose and predictable story lines. Moody's fiction is anything but soft or light.

Moody's latest collection—he's written a previous collection and three novels, including The Ice...

(The entire section is 575 words.)

Susan Salter Reynolds (essay date 21 February 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Moody Kind of Suburbia,” in Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2001, p. E1.

[In the following essay, Reynolds discusses Moody's literary career and relays the author's comments on his life and work.]

To be fair, it is not highly professional to tell a tired writer on a book tour that you think he has a nice face. Some people might think you are, how do you say, “coming on to them.” But like a lot of Rick Moody's readers, I feel like I know him (every author's worst nightmare). He has become, for a generation of people in their 30s and 40s, a dark chronicler of American suburbia—mostly the East Coast variety, but it translates.

The...

(The entire section is 1203 words.)