Demonology: Stories

( 6 )

Overview

Rick Moody's novels have earned him a reputation as a "breathtaking" writer (The New York Times) and "a writer of immense gifts" (The San Francisco Examiner). His remarkable short stories have led both the New Yorker and Harpers to single him out as one of the most original and admired voices in a generation.
These stories are abundant proof of Rick Moody's grace as a stylist and a shaper of interior lives. He writes with equal force about the blithe energies of youth ("Boys") ...

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Demonology: Stories

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Overview

Rick Moody's novels have earned him a reputation as a "breathtaking" writer (The New York Times) and "a writer of immense gifts" (The San Francisco Examiner). His remarkable short stories have led both the New Yorker and Harpers to single him out as one of the most original and admired voices in a generation.
These stories are abundant proof of Rick Moody's grace as a stylist and a shaper of interior lives. He writes with equal force about the blithe energies of youth ("Boys") and the rueful onset of middle age ("Hawaiian Night"), about Midwestern optimists ("Double Zero") and West coast strategists ("Baggage Carousel"), about visionary exhilaration ("Forecast from the Retail Desk") and delusional catharsis ("Surplus Value Books: Catalog Number 13.") The astounding title story, which has already been reprinted in four different anthologies, is a masterpiece of remembrance and thwarted love.
Full of deep feeling and stunningly beautiful language, the stories in Demonology offer the deepest pleasures that fiction can afford.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Among the swirl of ethnic weddings at a marriage mill in Connecticut, grief-stricken employee Andrew Wakefield plans an evil revenge against his dead sister's fiancé that involves a chicken mask and human ashes. Andrew, the central character in "The Mansion on the Hill," is just one of the many offbeat and troubled characters who populate Demonology, the second short story collection by Rick Moody, the author of the acclaimed novels The Ice Storm and Purple America. In this brilliant, satirical collection framed by the deaths of two sisters, Moody uses his acerbic wit and perceptive eye to address our futile attempts to find meaning and catharsis in our suffering.

Moody's stories navigate long, winding roads over which the author capably propels his readers toward certain intended epiphanies. In "The Carnival Tradition," he plays with the chronology of two aspiring bohemians in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1985, then brings them back to when they met as teenagers ten years earlier on Halloween. What begins as a send-up of scrambling and pretentious artists evolves into a comedy of manners about rich and awkward adolescents, finally becoming a devastating meditation on the loss of love and the death of youthful dreams. The story's maimed protagonist is left alone and isolated.

Moody further displays his penchant for breaking short story conventions when he uses a newly discovered cassette collection to tell of the downward spiral of an upper-class ne'er-do-well. In "Wilkie Fahnstock: The Boxed Set," notes on the cassette tapes record the rock hits through the 1970s and '80s, as well as the young scion's inability to hold down jobs, stay out of drug rehab, stay in graduate programs, or to develop a meaningful life.

In "Surplus Value Books, Catalogue #13," Moody re-creates the book list of a mentally ill man selling his library. Each title he is selling refers in some way to his obsession with a female graduate student he will never kiss. As the list goes on, the increasing book values and outrageous liner notes become a vehicle for expression of the madman's hysteria.

In the title story, which ends the collection, Moody weaves a compelling ode to a sister who dies suddenly. With the orange flames of Halloween licking the edges of the story, Moody chronicles the sister's difficult but not entirely meaningless life while she takes her kids trick-or-treating. The grief of the narrator is unflinching.

Moody is on firmest ground in Demonology when he takes apart life in suburban America and examines the pieces with his biting humor. His mockeries of social conventions illuminate the raw human feelings of hurt and loneliness in his characters. Demonology proves once again that Moody is a master storyteller who weaves elaborate tales, bringing readers right where the writer wants us: looking into a mirror that reflects our naked emotions.

Dylan Foley is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

Janet Maslin
[Moody] animates this eccentric group of experiments with glimpses of a soulfulness behind the game-playing (the first story begins with the sight of a man in a chicken mask) and with a streak of gratifyingly acerbic wit.
New York Times
Chris Lehmann
Rick Moody's fiction...admirably evokes the grace concealed within petty routines, the forgiveness entwined around deep family recriminations and the generosity of spirit detectable within our facile and feeling-challenged age...
Washington Post
Washington Post
...admirably evokes the grace concealed within petty routines...and the generosity of spirit detectable within our facile and feeling-challenged age.
Onion
A writer of tremendous virtuosity...
Rocky Mountain News
...displays Moody's uncanny ability to perforate the surface of the seemingly ordinary lives of his characters. In doing so, he creates extraordinary work...
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Part of the charm of his fiction is his willingness to experiment, to play with life and language...
Boston Sunday Herald
...further scrutiny reveals [Moody's words] are also as wll-chosen as the syllables in a sonnet...
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Moody's sentences can go on for pages...fortunately, the scene at the top of the stairs is usually worth the climb...
Philadelphia City Paper
[Moody] writes eloquently and perceptively....
From The Critics
In such '90s novels as the much-lauded The Ice Storm and the even more ambitious Purple America, Moody explored a northeastern suburbia shaped by pharmaceutical numbness and post-punk rock. In his second collection of stories (The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven was the first), Moody is more concerned with narrative strategies, extending the possibilities of structure and voice. One story is like the liner notes to a box-set anthology, annotating a life through a selection of favorite records. Another is like an annotated catalog of rare books, examining what the fictional narrator calls "the pathology of book collectors" (while perhaps revealing more of that narrator's own pathology than he intends). Two other stories are each a single sentence long (one lasting two-and-a-half pages, the other sixteen). However uneven the results, the collection, which confounds the distinction between form and content, consistently challenges the reader to come to terms with what these stories mean. The best transcend literary gamesmanship, with both the opening "The Mansion on the Hill" and the closing title story dealing with a sister's death. The latter reads like autobiography (much in the manner of Lorrie Moore's "People Like That Are the Only People Here") and both ring devastatingly true.
—Don McLeese

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sending wry, heartbroken characters across the slightly tilted landscapes of his fiction, Moody fosters a low-grade bemusement in the 13 stories collected here. "The Mansion on the Hill," the first and perhaps the best, follows the adventures of narrator Andrew Wakefield as he tries to come to terms with his sister's death--she was killed in a car accident just before her wedding. Coincidentally finding himself employed at a ritzy wedding-planning business, Andrew alternates memories of the past with clunky product-speak descriptions of his job. The death of a sister is the theme of the title story, too, a tale Moody confesses at the end is hardly fictional at all, echoing in his fervent first-person declarations the nonfiction stylings of Dave Eggers. First published in McSweeney's, "The Double Zero," another of Moody's stories, describes the humorous failure of a family ostrich ranch. In "Carousel," an aging, low-level Hollywood actress muses on the metaphysics of the movie business and ends up stuck in the middle of a drive-by shooting while waiting at McDonald's to buy orange juice for her daughter ("So why are they here? According to what rationale? Do they even have juice at McDonald's?"). Moody's self-conscious prose strains for hyper-modern colloquial detachment, but too often misses its mark, clanging just off-key. (Jan. 25) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A new collection from the author of The Ice Storm, the basis of the Ang Lee film, and prize winners like Garden State. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
From The Critics
This thirteen story anthology affirms the belief that author Rick Moody writes intricate tales that bares open the good, the bad, and the ugliness of the human soul. His current anthology, Demonology, provides a look into the heart, especially the broken kind, of the suburbanite. The reader will feel they are lost in an endless cavern of emotions before Mr. Moody guides the audience out of the well. This collection will please the author's fans (see The Ice Storm) as the characters question why. All the stories are well written though a few seem stretched in terms of trying to send a message that at times is depressing and leaves an aftertaste of helplessness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316592109
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 4/10/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 984,651
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Rick Moody
Rick Moody, a child of the 1970s and the privileged middle class of the Northeast, has become a specialist in dissecting both in his novels and short stories, which tend to focus on the troubled state of the nuclear family.

Biography

A bitter wind blows through the suburban landscapes created by novelist Rick Moody. Consider the elements of his second -- and most famous -- creation, The Ice Storm: Watergate hearings, marital infidelity, spouse-swapping key parties, familial disenfranchisement, and one teenager's chance meeting with an errant power line. All over Thanksgiving weekend.

"Rick Moody's The Ice Storm," wrote the Chicago Tribune's Adam Begley in 1994, "a bitter and loving and damning tribute to the American family, belongs to a subgenre I think of as suburban Gothic-tidy lawns and two-car garages, all the vulgar complacencies of affluence, mixed with brooding horror, melodramatic violence, extreme psychological states."

These Gothic-tidy lawns are the stuff of Moody's childhood. Though born in New York City, he grew up in various suburbs, including New Caanan, Connecticut, the home of the Hood family, his hapless, disconnected brood in The Ice Storm. A child of the 1970s, he apparently took copious notes, because his novels are filled with the detail of the period: the books, the articles, Masters & Johnson, Creem.

"[The Ice Storm] 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 Los Angeles Times noted. "The argot, the foibles, the fads and the artifacts: They're all here, meticulously catalogued and historically framed with discussions of the design, politics and groping psychology of the period."

In Purple America, Moody again visits the neighborhoods of privileged Connecticut, exploring the disappointments and debauchery of the American middle class. Set over a 24-hour period, the novel follows late-30s alcoholic Hex Raitliffe, who comes home to care for his invalid mother, abandoned by his stepfather, who manages a nearby nuclear power plant.

The Chicago Tribune pronounced the novel "dazzling" and even drew comparisons to Shakespeare: "While it might seem a blasphemous assertion, readers also may sense Moody's kinship to the young bard in his exuberance at the possibilities of language. Self-consciously artful but rarely obtrusive, Moody's prose dazzles with labyrinthine sentences of Faulknerian length. Its opening passage rings with biblical cadences, into the middle of which he tosses a Zen koan, all describing Hex giving his mother a bath. So rich, in fact, is this book that it demands to be read at least twice."

Following his studies at Brown University and the master of fine arts program at Columbia University, Moody worked as an editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux -- a position that, one interviewer noted, made Moody wince upon recollection -- before releasing his first novel, Garden State, in 1992. He has also released two collections of short fiction, as well as a memoir, The Black Veil, in which he talks of the substance abuse that threw him into a life-threatening depression and recalls a relative who wore a black veil for much of his adult life, as atonement for accidentally killing a childhood friend.

"I'm naturally drawn to stuff you're not supposed to talk about," he told the The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1998. "I think literature is best when it's voicing what we would prefer not to talk about.... Literature is about interior states and emotional states, about what people think that they don't always say to their neighbors. I'm drawn magnetically with my tangled long sentences to those spots people don't want to talk about."

Good To Know

Moody wore a veil during his stint at the Yaddo artists' colony, where he worked on his memoir and family history, The Black Veil.

His father used to read from Moby-Dick at the dinner table each Thanksgiving.

Moody likes to write on the road on his laptop, listening to experimental music -- as a way to avoid distraction.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Hiram F. Moody, III
    2. Hometown:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 18, 1961
    1. Education:
      B.A., Brown University, 1983; M.F.A., Columbia University, 1986

Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Rick Moody

In an apartment filled of natural light high above Brooklyn, New York, Rick Moody spoke to writer Dylan Foley about the unintentional themes behind Demonology, the experimental freedom of short stories, and how he put his life on tape.

Barnes & Noble.com: How long did it take to put Demonology together?

Rick Moody: Some of these short stories are on the older side. The title story "Demonology" itself is five years old. "The Carnival Tradition," the long story, was finished a week before I turned the collection in. Some of the stories were finished before Purple America. They just fit around what I was doing.

B&N.com: At times you were working in two different mediums?

RM: Yes. Maybe it was out of boredom or a short attention span. I guess I need to try to come up with projects that create uncertainty, and that gives me some impetus to solve creative problems.

B&N.com: The themes that appear to be at the center of Demonology are loss, death, mental illness, and social satire. What was your intention with putting this collection together?

RM: The truth is that some of these stories that were published serially were pretty popular. "Demonology" and, to a lesser extent, "The Mansion on the Hill" were being picked up for anthologies. I wanted to have them someplace where people interested in my work could find them. I simply gathered up stuff that had been lying around, but it turns out there were these themes that had been kicking around during this period and crept into things.

It is no secret there was a death in my family and some of the work is about that. There are even stories that aren't about that, where that kind of calamitous event creeps into details as though there were parts of me that were still processing the material.

B&N.com: You put "The Mansion on the Hill," which has a sibling death, first as a farce, and then you put "Demonology" as this piece about your sister at the end. Why did you do this?

RM: The story of my sister kept getting into the work, whether I wanted it or not. If you put "Demonology" first, people would just throw the book across the room. It's a devastating piece. I wanted the collection to rise up to the challenge of it, rather than you get through "Demonology" and it is all warm and jokey after that.

B&N.com: Where did you get the inspiration for "Wilkie Fahnstock: The Boxed Set"?

RM: It started right after I finished The Ice Storm, and while I was writing the stories in The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven [for which Moody won the The Paris Review's prestigious Aga Khan Prize]. I needed a break. I decided to embark on this project, to get totally away from narrative for a while. I decided to assemble every song I'd ever liked in my entire life and make cassettes of them. So I started crazily buying all these CDs that you really don't want to have, like Machine Head by Deep Purple, and once I made the list, the list started to kind of iterate a character, so Wilkie was born as another character for whom this might be the list. Then once I had him, the list started changing, and Wilkie's list started to be different from my list.

B&N.com: So you made the tapes first?

RM: Yes, before there was any text. There's an actual metal box that has the entire anthology.

B&N.com: What kind of different musical tastes do you have from Wilkie?

RM: He likes more bad metalish stuff. The most coherent section of the tapes are the early section, because I liked all that music, and the end of the tapes, the weird experimental stuff. I like that, too. I love Brian Eno. He's one of my heroes. Music for Airports has been a major accompaniment to my work. I play it for days at a time when I am working.

B&N.com: You've said in the past that you don't want the label as a "suburban" writer. Have you continued to move away from this?

RM: Readers from all over the country can find something in my work, and it is not regionally bound. The whole idea was not to get pigeon-holed in this one neighborhood. I don't know if I am a New York writer. Certainly the Northeast is the preeminent locale, but there is a story in this book that is set in California, and some other sites spring up. The truth, however, is that if you know someplace well, you can bring something to the imagining of it.

B&N.com: I see a touch of your history in the new stories, especially in "The Carnival Tradition."

RM: The first half of that short story is more autobiographical than the second. I did live in Hoboken, and I did live with a dancer for a while, but obviously I don't have any broken bones.

With "The Carnival Tradition," the idea for me was to have a two-part story that was sort of a farewell to my first two novels. The first half is about New Jersey, where Garden State was about New Jersey, and the second half was about Connecticut, like The Ice Storm is about Connecticut. I recognize in myself having grown beyond the writer who wrote those two books, but I wanted to go back, to see if I could recreate the time and the mindset that produced that work. I can write better than I could write then. I've matured.

B&N.com: How would you compare the experimentation of your short stories to your novels?

RM: I think the stories are much more recklessly experimental and they're that way because you can try an experiment with a short story, and if it doesn't work, you've only wasted two months. Whereas if you wade into a novel and you find that the very premise of it is unworkable, you are in a disastrous spot. I wrote 100 pages of Purple America and tried it in the first person, and found out it really didn't work. I threw out 96 of the 100 pages and started over again. That was a heartbreaker...that was six months worth of work.

With the stories, I can try something and monkey around and amuse myself. If it works, great. If it doesn't, there is always another short story around the corner.

B&N.com: I took "Demonology" to be an elegy to this sweet person who lived a flawed life, but a good one. Was it an accurate depiction of your sister?

RM: Yes, it is, or at least the people who knew her felt it is. Clearly, I wasn't there when the events happened, but the story was assembled, and it is a writer doing what a writer does, to try to see into things, to try to understand why they happen.

The truth is, I could not have not written the story. I would have loved to have not written it. But that's the only way I know how to get through stuff like this, to make sense of what happened. When I had finished it, I was very conflicted over whether it was worth publishing. I published it in a little quarterly and people have been so responsive. I let it continue to be published.

B&N.com: In "Demonology" there are the tragedies and the random acts of violence -- Gerry's car accident, a woman driving into a gunfight or a brain seizure -- that significantly alter people's lives. Where do these moments of inspiration come from?

RM: Once you have suffered a calamity, you never feel safe from a calamity, under any circumstances. Even if nothing horrible has happened in the year 2001 so far, I feel that I could be hit by a bus, or tomorrow I could be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. So that sense of vulnerability to traumatic events has become part of me as a writer of these stories. I just can't conceal it.

B&N.com: What is your next project going to be?

RM: It is a nonfiction memoir called The Black Veil. It's almost done. It's supposed to come out in 2002. It's real point of origin was that there was a story by Nathaniel Hawthorne called "The Minister's Black Veil," which is loosely based on the life of a distant relative of mine, Joseph Moody, who had a breakdown in his later life and began wearing a veil in public all the time.

The book is really about the fact that my family claimed we were related to this guy. Isn't it interesting how families create mythologies about themselves to explain who they are? This book is about my life only as an example of how someone grows up feeling about himself after being told they are related to a crazy person.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2002

    Very moving collection.

    I happened to pick this book up at my library by chance and it happened to be one of the best short story books I've read. I look forward in reading his other works.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2001

    My agreed thoughts...

    Sometimes, in life, there is only the chicken mask, the luggage that makes all others obsolete, and the thoughts you would never share with yourself.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Insightful anthology

    This thirteen story anthology affirms the belief that author Rick Moody writes intricate tales that bares open the good, the bad, and the ugliness of the human soul. His current anthology, DEMONOLOGY, provides a look into the heart, especially the broken kind, of the suburbanite. The reader will feel they are lost in an endless cavern of emotions before Mr. Moody guides the audience out of the well. <P> This collection will please the author¿s fans (see THE ICE STORM) as the characters question why. All the stories are well written though a few seem stretched in terms of trying to send a message that at times is depressing and leaves an aftertaste of helplessness. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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