Archive for Sunday, June 30, 2002

REVIEW Moody’s ‘Black Veil’ whiny

June 30, 2002


At a certain point in Rick Moody's memoir or "memoir with digressions," as he calls it it all becomes just a little much.

Moody has filled the pages of "The Black Veil" with his travails, writing at length about the emotional and psychological troubles he experienced during his teens through mid-20s.

A little more than halfway through, Moody reveals something that until that point would have seemed impossible an accomplishment. He says that the first three chapters of his first novel, "The Garden State," were drafted in the early months of 1987, "despite my illness."

It's a simple statement, but a very telling one.

Most of this memoir is an extremely well-written litany of complaints, regrets and self-loathing. The reader is hard-pressed to look through this overgrown briar patch of woe and not assume it was written by a struggling artist whose income and sanity teeter on a self-imposed brink.

No, Moody is a critically acclaimed and commercially successful writer, whose fiction has been made into film and whose writing has appeared in most of the major forums all before he has reached age 40.

Yet Moody writes with such a need for pity, and even a bit of self-flagellation, that after a while he sounds like Bill Gates complaining about the price of gasoline.

"I was shameful," Moody writes in describing his thoughts during one period in his early 20s. "My past was shameful, my future was shameful, any bad end that I might come to was an appropriate bad end, and this was best suffered in silence."

He describes a long period of heavy drinking, a series of failed relationships, a stay at a mental facility (for the aforementioned "illness") and discomfort around other people. He also writes about his parents' divorce when he was an adolescent.

Yet, while all of the problems he describes can be devastating, Moody never quite convinces us that they were so, only that he likes to believe it.

He just seems to be a melancholy soul searching for a deep reason why he said things such as "I'm having a little trouble being happy" to former colleagues.

He also goes into great detail about his connection with the Rev. Joseph Moody, who wore a veil after accidentally killing a friend when they were children.

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