'Sad things can happen when a writer chooses the wrong subject,' Wilfrid Sheed once observed. 'First the writer suffers, then the reader, and finally the publisher, all together in a tiny whirlpool of pain.' Rick Moody's The Black Veil is the latest voyage to the bottom of the sink, a journey of self-discovery jinxed by dense fog and treacherous syntax. Moody is best known for his novels, Garden State (which is being released for the first time in the UK to piggyback on the publication of this book),* Purple America and The Ice Storm, and his short-story collections, The Ring of Brightest Angels around Heaven and Demonology. He also co-edited Joyful Noise, a collection of essays devoted to the New Testament. In The Black Veil Moody assumes the role of apostle. This book is a secular gospel, a modern replica of a 19th-century bedside miscellany: a hodgepodge of personal anecdote, family lore, literary reflections, political comment, religious brooding, weather updates ('this day is sunny and bright with cumulus clouds, a little bit of humidity, high in the mid-eighties, storm front from the Midwest approaching'), and lobster recipes from Moody's crusty granddad. The book jacket of the US edition is a faux antique with quaint typeface and torn binding meant to give the illusion of a well-worn volume fetched from a private collection.
LRB 19 September 2002 | PDF Download