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Purple America: A Novel Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1st Back Bay Pbk. Ed edition (May 4, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316559776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316559775
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #853,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Purple America begins in a bathtub and ends in Long Island Sound. In between, Rick Moody's latest novel explores the landscape of a family in crisis. Dexter (Hex) Raitliffe, a freelance publicist, returns home to care for his mother, Billie, who is dying by inches of a neurological disease that will rob her of motion, of speech, and finally of thought. Billie's second husband has left her--a fact that Hex is unaware of until he comes home--and her only hope for assisted suicide lies in her son. Unfortunately, Hex is barely able to conduct his own life, much less take his mother's. Purple America takes place over the course of a single night; in that night, Hex gives his mother a bath, reconnects with an old love, gets drunk, and goes after his stepfather to confront him, with tragic results.

As Moody weaves his tale of this fateful Friday evening, he juxtaposes themes of aging, obsolescence, and physical decline with an accident at the nuclear power plant where his stepfather works. What lifts this novel above its rather depressing subject matter is Moody's unsentimental storytelling and the soaring language with which he gives his characters voice. Purple America is by turns lyrical, tragic, ferocious, and funny, and Rick Moody is a writer with a brilliant future ahead of him. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The explosive cleavage of the atom and its attendant fallout provide the arch-metaphor for Moody's third novel. Billie Raitliffe, of Fenwick, Connecticut, suffers from a paralyzing neuralgic disorder and cannot care for herself. Younger husband Lou Sloane, a nuclear plant manager, has moved out, so she calls on her middle-aged, alcoholic son Dexter (Hex). The specter of Hex's father, a Manhattan Project scientist who died of radiation poisoning, hovers perceptibly over the proceedings. In a 36-hour span, Billie is injured, Hex consummates a lingering high school crush in a bizarre fashion, and Lou presides over a nuclear emergency the day of his forced early retirement. The events do not occur discretely but are part of a chain reaction Moody engineers in an atomic experiment. He renders his findings in vivid, intense, and often unpleasant detail, effectively reviving the nuclear threat and limning its symbolic and etymological resonance with domestic breakdown (half-life, decay) without denying the humanity of the characters or the centrality of the story. Despite the occasionally overwrought prose, Moody has redrawn the suburban landscape, as defined by Updike and Cheever. Fans of both will want to discover this new country.?Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

I was born in NYC and raised in the CT suburbs. One of my grandfathers was a newspaper publisher and the other a small-town GM dealer. I figure this is a good lineage for a writer. I went to school in Rhode Island, where I worked with some really interesting people, like Angela Carter and John Hawkes. And then I got my MFA from Columbia University in NYC. After school I worked in book publishing in New York, during some lean times. My first novel came out in 1992. Since then, I've been writing mostly. I teach now and then. I got married in 2003, to my girlfriend of many years, Amy. She's working on her MA in decorative arts history. We split our time between Brooklyn and a little island off the coast of CT.

Customer Reviews

I found the lyricism of his writing deeply moving.
hairpin
In fact he's constructed a wonderful story of responsibility and hope that is however, modest in scale, tied up within his flawed characters.
John Willoughby
I think it is a very apt comparison, to all of Cheever's work, but especially to FALCONER.
John Crutcher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jake Mohan on September 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Moody's prose reminds me more of old-timers like Updike, Steinbeck, and Salinger, than of his contemporaries. Why? Well, first of all, it's rich, layered, carefully plotted, crafted with care. Moody is patient; he's not worried about rushing to the end of a sentence, paragraph, or chapter just so he can execute a clever postmodern sleight-of-hand. He's more concerned with the process, the care that goes into describing a suburban backyard on an autumn night, or a crowded seafood restaurant. Postmodern prose jockeys who get off on wordplay, thwarted expectations, and other narratological trap doors might be disappointed with Moody. But I'd like to see more writers doing what Moody does: blending the best of the new and the best of the old.
Purple America is a shift away from the realm of most postmodern prose: hyper and seemingy directionless narratives, cultural subversion, deconstruction of character and narrative. As I see it, Moody shares only the best devices of his postmodern peers. Like them, he is a young writer bred on the postmodern literary climate, who knows hardly anything else. But he also realizes the worth of comparatively "conventional" twentieth-century forms as explored by writers like Salinger and his ilk. In Purple America, I feel he has blended the best of both almost seamlessly. He admits that it's still all right to write a story with no disorienting chronological jump cuts. It's all right to write a story where characters' life histories are fully divulged, from birth to death. It's all right to write a story where a terminally ambivalent man is worried sick about his dying mother.

The postmodern gestures are still there, but they don't ruin the novel because they don't obscure the narrative.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Joshua S. Levy on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
... the language is tricky at times, and he likes to get into those categorical lists, which may come across as tangential wandering, but to me its quite brilliant. The first five or so pages count as probably among the best writing I have ever read. Very meditative, like an incantation, a style which resonates throughout the book. I guess the only reason I'm writing this review is becasue this book needs to be read and studied; not enough people recognize its beauty. It's easy to read it quickly and not let it get to you. Read it slowly. A great improvement over Garden State, I think, and just as if not more satsifying than The Ice Storm. Please read it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Crutcher on December 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
Moody took on a huge challenge in building a book around a character without any obvious appeal and in a dark milieu. He manages the challenge brilliantly and has written one of the best novels I've read in years. I noticed another customer questioned the comparison to Cheever that some reveiwers have made. I think it is a very apt comparison, to all of Cheever's work, but especially to FALCONER.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on August 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
Reading Rick Moody's Purple America is like spying on a dysfunctional family's bathroom, you see everything. Read this novel at your own risk, for you will experience decay and destruction with little catharsis. The writing is as well done as you could ask. The characters are well rounded and believable. My only issue with this novel is that I came to the table ill prepared to handle the depressing narration. So, read it but realize what you are in for.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 10, 1997
Format: Paperback
Certain metaphors ought to come with expiration dates, no less than milk or medicine.
Rick Moody's third novel, "Purple America," is an ambitious, funny, beautifully written
book whose prevailing metaphor -- the faltering promise of the nuclear age, and behind it
the decline of the American nuclear family -- has begun to curdle. The military and
civilian uses of atomic physics have been with us for only half a century, but somehow
their fictional uses, irresistible over the years to numberless writers and filmmakers,
already seem as inert as a spent fuel rod.
This subtle handicap never keeps "Purple America" from succeeding as an
uncommonly empathetic fugue of voices from what's left of the Raitliffe family of
Fenwick, Connecticut, during one night in 1992. The novel starts with awkward,
stammering, prematurely middle-aged Hex Raitliffe (christened Dexter but lefthanded)
fumblingly bathing his paralyzed, vaguely senile mother, Billie, in the upstairs bathroom
of their once-stylish home. "If he's a hero," Moody writes with grace and compassion of
Hex, "then heroes are five-and-dime, and the world is as crowded with them as it is with
stray pets, worn tires, and missing keys."
For the second chapter, perspective shifts to Billie. In a pattern repeated
throughout the book, we at first resist such a wrench, having spent the previous pages
inhabiting Hex's mind with an intimacy only very fine writing can create. But before long
we are Billie's, and the subsequent sidesteps into Billie's overwhelmed second husband
Lou's company, or that of Hex's unforgotten ninth-grade love, Jane, are just as wrenching.
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