Ted Mooney Webster Schott - Essay

Webster Schott

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Closing Ted Mooney's Easy Travel to Other Planets, I remembered reading for the first time J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and James Purdy's 63: Dream Palace. Mooney has different ideas about how we live and feel, and the style to make them seem important….

Easy Travel involves principally two young couples, a late middle-aged couple, and a dolphin. The two most urgent of these characters are Melissa, a … marine biologist, and the dolphin, who is named Peter….

Since Easy Travel is mostly about the effects of erotic liaisons, the Melissa-Peter combination is only the most unusual of several….

Because Easy Travel is also about a general disjunction in American society, "being … thoroughly at the testy mercy of disorderly events," these emotional bondings tend to go nowhere except toward disaster. They become diluted by failures of talk and intention, existential angst, and the belief of the young that all alternatives are available and for unlimited time….

Ted Mooney's waffling couples recall Walker Percy's despairing characters who are unaware of being in despair, or the early lovers of Ernest Hemingway who think things may or may not get better. They provoke speculation. They are real enough to learn from. Their values are new, like some of the drugs they take. But their personal strategies are as old as the seven deadly sins. Everything is permitted in their relationships. Therefore everything is open, right? Wrong…. The new-value environment of Easy Travel to Other Planets is vitalized by the same confusions psychological fiction has been observing for a hundred years.

Aside from its exposures of character, I think the most intriguing qualities of Easy Travel are Ted Mooney's various proposals about sensory perception and social condition. (p. 5)

Some of Mooney's accessory diversions—his fragments on "Use of the Ray Gun," "Time Measured by the Clapping of Hands," and his yarn about Freud's dog Fritz—are not only irrelevant but impudent. Mooney has a big bag of tricks. He wants to do them all in his first novel. It's unnecessary. He writes elegant sentences. He understands human motives. His ideas are large. (p. 7)

Webster Schott, "Love in the Shallows," in Book World—The Washington Post (© 1981, The Washington Post), October 4, 1981, pp. 5, 7.