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The Black Veil Paperback – May 12, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Rick Moody is that rare writer who can make the language do tricks and still suffuse his narrative with soul.' Will Blythe, Esquire --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Rick Moody's celebrated books include three novels and two collections of short fiction. He is a past recipient of the Addison Metcalf Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His fiction and essays have appeared in many major publications. He lives in New York.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (May 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316739014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316739016
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,101,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Linda Adni on July 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Having read this book several times cover to cover since it came out in 2001, I have grown to appreciate it more with each read. I think the main mistake previous reviewers have made in assessing the Black Veil is blaming this book (which I find is mistakenly categorized as a memoir to appease our label-loving publishing industry) for its inability to live up to their expectations of an average, straight-forward autobiography. It seems to me that Moody, as an esteemed experimental writer, had no such designs for this kind of total recall and those who foist their preconceptions of the memoir upon this book will indeed be disappointed.

For the open-minded reader however, Moody has a much more interesting offering. Using himself as a means of reflecting upon the vast scales of life experience, Moody connects discussions of family and friends, alcoholism and drug use, literature and music, to grand themes such shame, criminality, and tragedy in both personal and national identities. Using Hawthorne's story, The Minister's Black Veil as a touchstone, (think Proust's madeleine but more integral) Moody achieves the rare feat of making his particular life story feel universally important.
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Format: Paperback
With "The Black Veil", Rick Moody has written a brilliantly realized memoir which I suspect will one day be remembered as well as Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes". Indeed there are many passages throughout "The Black Veil" which rank alongside "Angela's Ashes" for their elegant literary quality. If some readers - and I might add, book reviewers such as the infamous Dale Peck - have been frustrated with "The Black Veil", then I suspect it may be that Rick hasn't written nearly as engrossing a tale of survival as the one depicted by Frank in "Angela's Ashes". It also probably has hurt Rick that he has told his tale in a nonlinear fashion, jumping to and fro between various points from his childhood to early adulthood, while trying to mingle successfully with his memoir, writing a thoughtful literary exploration of the Nathaniel Hawthorne short story "The Minister's Black Veil" (The entire story is reprinted in its entirety at the end of "The Black Veil".) and of his own biographical odyssey in search of Joseph "Handkerchief" Moody, the ancestor who inspired Hawthorne's short story.

Among the more memorable passages are those relating to Rick's mental collapse and rehabilitation in a psychiatric clinic in Hollis, Queens (a New York City neighborhood in the borough of Queens) back in 1987. Indeed, I might add that I found most refreshing his acknowledgement of personal flaws such as drinking which led to his hospitalization (This is in stark contrast to what I read in Frank McCourt's "Tis", in which I perceived - whether correctly or not - that Frank was more willing to blame others for his own problems rather than acknowledging his own responsibility.).
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
In the last pages of this memoir, Rick Moody expresses his worry about "leaving something out." Yeah, Rick, you left YOURSELF out of your own memoir. Though Rick's experiences of alcoholism are interesting and self-reflective, the weaved in literary criticism of Hawthorne's parable attenuate any emotional potential of the memoir. We can feel bad for Rick, but we better shut up quickly and think deeply about his examination of what the black veil means. Also, as one reviewer pointed out, Rick just seems wordy here. He actually writes sentences like, "i don't know how to describe this..." Well then don't!
Ahh.... . the days of The Ice Storm
However, after reading the first chapter of this book (even the first page), you will think you are in for a treat. So it is worth just reading the first chapter in a book store.
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Format: Paperback
As did William Styron, Rick Moody has focused his writerly abilities on depression in this volume. Moody, the middle child, had divorced parents, the divorce event having transpired in 1970 when the family was living in Darien, CT. The home had been quiet. His father's favorite book was MOBY DICK. He was a financial planner. 'Black Veil" refers to a Hawthorne story, 'The Minister's Black Veil'. Presumably the writer used a Moody ancestor in the story, Joseph Moody.

Both the author and his grandfather, the owner of a General Motors dealership, were exaggerators. Moody's grandparents lived in Norwalk, CT, after living in Winchester, MA, where the dealership had been located, and Rowayton. The Grandmother occupied the second floor and the Grandfather the basement. The Grandfather told the children to get out of the house and do some work.

Hawthorne tried to write his way out of his life circumstances before getting married in middle age. After college Moody goes to San Francisco to do something new. The landlady is a psychiatrist.

Holidays, back East now, are given over to unquiet waiting. At Christmas there is sorrow, there is the burden of guilty conscience. Gifts have obligations attached to them. Christmas is a contested day with sets of parents. Moody's 'slough of despond' is alleviated by drinking.

Newton Arvin and Leslie Stephens wrote about the Hawthorne story. The veil may represent the sick soul. In York, ME, the author and his father visit the grave of the Reverend Joseph Moody. He died in 1753.

Melancholy is a way of thinking. After having a panic attack Christmas, 1986, there are therapist visits and drugs prescribed. Then in March Moody experiences irrational thoughts, blackness.
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