Ted Mooney Jeffrey Burke - Essay

Jeffrey Burke

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

For the most part, Mooney's thoughtful treatment of the old problems prevents [Easy Travel to Other Planets] from being reductively classed as science fiction. It must, however, be taken on its own peculiar terms, which involve some of the symptoms of information sickness: "disconnected speech, apparent disorientation, and the desire to touch everything." (p. 83)

Unfortunately, Mooney's bid for uniqueness began to try my patience. It's relatively easy to accept an Antarctic war or the extremities of information overload; and his "new emotion," perhaps a key to the novel, has the plausibility of a kind of psychological poetry while suggesting Perelandra and sounding like space travel…. [But] Mooney's provocations only tantalize me into trying to figure him out. Distracted, I've lost sight of his characters' abortions, tumors, and dreams.

Mooney's vision of the future is just a bit too strange and his manner of conveying it too strained for such traditional themes as he pursues in Easy Travels…. And the disconnected nature of his novel is potentially as distracting to a reader as the novel's "reality" is to its characters. Those characters are trivialized in a way that has little to do with the pace and incoherence of Mooney's future.

I end up with an impression of a very talented writer whose next novel will be as serious in intention as this one but less strained in form, avoiding particularly small nonsense effects like: "Twenty feet away Peter made a noise like a cocktail party heard through waxed paper." (p. 84)

Jeffrey Burke, "First Time Out," in Harper's (copyright © 1981 by Harper's Magazine; all rights reserved; reprinted from the November, 1981 issue by special permission), Vol. 263, No. 1578, November, 1981, pp. 82-4.∗