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THE BLACK VEIL by Rick Moody


A Memoir with Digressions

by Rick Moody

Pub Date: May 6th, 2002
ISBN: 0-316-57899-1
Publisher: Little, Brown

Novelist Moody (Demonology, 2000, etc.) reveals an inspired but not pretty picture of his life.

Circumstances didn’t make a sweet spring of youth for Moody: He was shy and awkward, he stammered, was the beneficiary of a mean divorce, and seemingly had no fixed address. The one constant was reading, along with a link to his father (while his grandfather, if not as ever-present, was another blessed trouble-free zone). The grandfather told stories, and one of the true ones concerned a relation named Joseph “Handkerchief” Moody, who wore a black veil, likely in shame and sorrow after accidentally killing a friend in childhood. The veil becomes central to the memoir—with its sad mysteries, dark implications, and the simple yet not so simple act of hiding who you are if “concealment is essential to identity.” Moody’s language wells over; italicized words reverberate as emphatically as bassoons; images and feelings throng as he describes days—days and days—down and out to booze, followed by the shift into melancholia, when he expects every encounter to end in his rape: in short, the “hopelessness” that resulted in his admittance into a New York City asylum. A genuine and surprisingly sympathetic character emerges—the jacket copy reads that Moody worked in publishing at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, while he himself says that “I was now a postgraduate, M.F.A.-holding typist and filer of memos”—a mess and a screw-up. He explains how he once turned off the bell on his phone and as a result only later heard a frantic and accusatory series of old messages from his father, trying to reach him after his sister had died from a seizure. With that same father, Moody quests into the family lineage, looking for themes, myths, and poignancy.

Where he got the focus to write through all this is a wonder, though he sure had plenty of material on death, defeat, and dehumanization to work with.