Ted Mooney Meredith Marsh - Essay

Meredith Marsh

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The future is definitely upon [the protagonists of Easy Travel to Other Planets], but the people are recognizably ourselves and the time is very close to now: Mooney [uses] … imaginative devices to crystallize confusions that we already face. (p. 34)

[The reader] suffers a touch of information sickness by the time this hypnotic and compacted story ends. Along with the effects of rapid travel and communication, Mooney manages to pack in the fate of the family, the nature of art, the changing nature of science, twins, dolphins, death, and a brand new emotion, related to ESP. Even the moon itself glides on stage to deliver a few lines. Mooney is a deeply provocative writer, in all senses of the words, skilled enough at showing the ways in which these intellectual sounding subjects actually pump hearts that he could well have slowed down his plot to pay a little more attention to the motivations of the people. Instead they merely are like good cartoons, distinct at a glance but never developed. For this reason, although [the climax is] … beautifully written, [it is] … far less persuasive than the quiet scenes.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about so self-conscious a book is how unabashedly romantic it is, a tale of heroes and quests, with few of the usual ironic twists that assure the reader that the author knows it's all a game. This author, with his opening quotation from Levi-Strauss, does know perfectly well that it's a game, of course, but he plays it flat out and, on the whole, wins, sweeping us straight under the spell of his loquacious moon. Partly this is because, like his namesake, Mooney is such a beautiful and inventive stylist that he could make virtually any hocus-pocus work for a chapter or two, but it is mostly because he uses his taut style to convey a single emotion with relentless force, the same old dread of annihilation that is still, he makes clear, the fossil fuel that drives his pill-popping characters toward their high-speed futures. (pp. 34-5)

Meredith Marsh, "Auspicious Debuts," in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1981 The New Republic, Inc.), Vol. 185, No. 16, October 21, 1981, pp. 33-5.∗