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RIGHT LIVELIHOODS by Rick Moody

RIGHT LIVELIHOODS

Three Novellas

By Rick Moody

Pub Date: June 6th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-316-16634-8
Publisher: Little, Brown

Moody (The Diviners, 2005, etc.) exploits the nightmarish liminal space between humor and madness, dream and reality.

In these novellas, he specializes in narrators on the edge, attempting to balance between rationality and insanity. The effect of this balancing act is vertiginous for the reader, who doesn’t know whether to laugh or shudder. In the first piece, “The Omega Force,” we meet Dr. James Van Deusen, who moves through an increasingly threatening (to him) landscape. After reading a sleazy thriller, he begins to see the world in terms dictated by Omega Force: Code White, becoming convinced that “dark-complected hostiles” are seeking out high-value targets on Long Island. His conspiracy theory extends to architectural modernism and “its links to, well, if not terror, suspicious political behavior.” Eventually, he even begins to see his wife as a possible hostile. The second story, “K&K,” focuses on Ellie Knight-Cameron. She’s the character the third-person narrator most closely identifies with, and both of them turn out to be at least as unreliable as Dr. Van Deusen. Ellie turns into something of a sleuth, trying to track down the author of cryptic messages posted in the suggestion box of the insurance office where she works. “The Albertine Notes” is the most elaborate and elusive of the three novellas. It’s a futuristic tale narrated by Kevin Lee, a third-generation Chinese-American who’s freelancing a story for “one of those tits and lit mags.” He’s trying to track down the origin of Albertine, a drug that gives its ingesters total recall of their past; the drug proves to be “a catalogue of demonic euphonies,” a blessing and curse that leads to a curious form of time travel.

Paranoia raised to the level of art.