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Demonology: Stories Paperback – April 10, 2002
"The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, The Lying Game. Pre-order today
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Rick Moody is a traditionalist. Despite his page-long paragraphs, brand-name dropping, obsessive cataloguing of workplace ritual, seemingly random italicizing, and inevitable digs at "multinational entertainment providers," Moody makes classically beautiful short stories. His tools are those of any master storyteller: detail, catharsis, the right word at the right moment. Granted, the details can be unexpected: e.g., comparative values of different Pez dispensers. And his brand of catharsis can be mighty abrupt. "Now the intolerable part of this story begins," he warns us in the title story of Demonology, while "Hawaiian Night" includes the ominous spoiler, "Here comes tragedy." Yet his word choice is always immaculate.
Moody's collection is framed by two stories in which the narrator ruminates over his dead sister. In the first, "The Mansion on the Hill," he speaks directly to the departed:
You were a fine sister, but you changed your mind all the time, and I had no idea if these things I'd attributed to you in the last year were features of the you I once knew, or whether, in death, you had become the property of your mourners, so that we made of you a puppet.The story promptly turns into a revenge fantasy, with an absurd climax wherein the narrator attacks his sister's former fiancé. "Demonology" deals with the actual circumstances of her death. First we see her tucking the kids into bed prior to her fatal seizure: "And my sister kissed her daughter multiply, because my niece is a little impish redhead, and it's hard not to kiss her." Moody then switches tone smoothly and beautifully as the medics work on the dead woman: "Her body jumped while they shocked her--she was a revenant in some corridor of simultaneities--but her heart wouldn't start." A writer who pins down such fluidities can get up to all the experimentation he likes. We'll go along willingly. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Sending wry, heartbroken characters across the slightly tilted landscapes of his fiction, Moody fosters a low-grade bemusement in the 13 stories collected here. "The Mansion on the Hill," the first and perhaps the best, follows the adventures of narrator Andrew Wakefield as he tries to come to terms with his sister's deathAshe was killed in a car accident just before her wedding. Coincidentally finding himself employed at a ritzy wedding-planning business, Andrew alternates memories of the past with clunky product-speak descriptions of his job. The death of a sister is the theme of the title story, too, a tale Moody confesses at the end is hardly fictional at all, echoing in his fervent first-person declarations the nonfiction stylings of Dave Eggers. First published in McSweeney's, "The Double Zero," another of Moody's stories, describes the humorous failure of a family ostrich ranch. In "Carousel," an aging, low-level Hollywood actress muses on the metaphysics of the movie business and ends up stuck in the middle of a drive-by shooting while waiting at McDonald's to buy orange juice for her daughter ("So why are they here? According to what rationale? Do they even have juice at McDonald's?"). Moody's self-conscious prose strains for hyper-modern colloquial detachment, but too often misses its mark, clanging just off-key. (Jan. 25) Forecast: Fans of Moody's novels and previous short story collection (The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven, 1995) will rush to flip through this uneven volume. Whether they will stick around to buy or to read all the way through remains to be seen, but the planned 9-city author tour will help.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
This is a solid collection of stories in the sort of post-mod sense of what a story should be. Rather than focus on immediate contemporaries, both Barthelme and Beckett appear in name and in prose forms in the stories in Demonology. Moody frequently mentions the form the "Roman a clef" which, according to wikipedia, is a "novel with a key" and a type of fictionalized non fiction. I tend to associate with writers like Witold Gombrowicz, but there are plenty of other writers writing today and who've written recently that use this type of non-fiction fiction blend, people like David Foster Wallace and what have you.
I read the book in two days. I thought it was funny, enjoyable. The good stories in it are very good. But there are a few mediocre ones. Mostly, I think that Moody's attempts at the abstracted story forms, his story that is essentially a play-list of songs, are kind of on the right track but not perfect. Maybe, they should end a little sooner. But maybe that's the point. I'm not one to judge.
Regardless, Moody's eye for comic images is great. Pan's Fair Throng deserves note for that if for no other reason.
But this collection lacks true emotional depth. Loss never transcends into grief, insecurity does not go to neurosis, love is never passion. It's small emotions that define this book, and I feel that the more experimental and language-intensive the work is, the more emotional substance needs to be there to support the structure. It's as if he has the same candy coating as Eggers and Wallace, but without the chewy center of hard-to-handle truth.
I liked enough of the style to keep an eye out for future work, but can't recommend this collection as anything outstanding.
I won't condemn the book, but it's similarities to more potent storytellers of the modern age pushes me away from it. For that reason, it's not entirely worth skipping, but I wouldn't bump this up to the top of the list of things to read if you're short on time or otherwise engaged with other paperbacks.
The book itself contains 13 short stories, a few of which are short enough to be a tribute to Joyce's stream of consciousness writing. It's not nearly as good, though. The other stories are an attempt at shocking stories or depressing confessions of fictional characters that should reflect our own inner demons but fall comparatively short. There are, however, a few gems. "The Mansion on the Hill", and "The Double Zero" are two of them. "The Carnival Tradition" is funny and easily quotable. The rest are decent, at their best, and still worth the read if you've already invested the time and money.
the stories deal with conventional themes so innate in human experience that when Moody renders them in such unusual ways, it becomes quite magnificent. No writer writing today attempts the kind of merging of style and content that Moody does and he gets hard knocks for it. Which is really quite unfair because he could easily write obvious and bland short stories about topics a million stories have dealt with before and still be considered a talented writer. Instead, he chooses to explore a post-structralist view of literature, refusing to pin down meaning so we can't all just feel satisifed we're dealing with a really smart guy who is going to tell us how to feel. Though ultimately, Moody is outshined by David Foster Wallace, simply because Wallace isn't so pretentious and far more self-consciousness about his own status as "far too smart"., he is still an author that, if read in spurts, can creep up on you like a song you've never liked before suddenly sounding like nothing you've ever heard.