three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
19-Nov-Dec-2005
By: 
Rick Moody
user_rating: 
0

A-DivinersAs the country obsesses over hanging chads and recounts after the 2000 election, Vanessa "Minivan" Meandro jumps through hoops to bring The Diviners, a TV miniseries about the ancient art of water dowsing, to fruition. The Krispy Kreme-addicted producer is not the only person attached to the script; L.A. is rife with them. Each chapter allows a different character to voice his or her relationship to the possibly mythical TV pilot. The army of the miniseries’ faithful, including a womanizing film star, a schizophrenic bike messenger, a Congregationalist minister, and a Sikh cab driver who knows more about American pop culture than anyone else, showcases the expansive power of Hollywood.
Little, Brown. 567 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0316085391

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"What anchors us, as the novel’s headlong action unfolds, is Moody’s treatment of his characters. . . . Sometimes swashbuckling, sometimes laserlike, [Moody] can spin out the absurdity of human behavior in giddy syntactic arabesques, or nail it with a single noun." Ann Harleman

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Despite its flaws, The Diviners is an astonishing book. More Cirque du Soleil than Brecht, but dazzling nonetheless." Jane Ciabattari

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"[T]he surface gloss does contrast in a surprisingly brilliant way with an underlying emotion that sneaks up on the reader from the author’s exploration of his characters. . . . The Diviners may be aimed at an obvious target—Hollywood is an inherent parody, much like that election—but it pulls off being sardonic about the silly seriousness of pop culture." Linda Burnett

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[I]f you like watching the smartest kid in the room do his stuff, The Diviners is like a Broadway musical filled with nothing but showstoppers, as Moody performs one bravura set piece after another." James Hynes

Minneapolis Star Tribune 2 of 5 Stars
"Apparently working under the notion that a book riffing on a supersized America needs to be supersized itself, The Diviners is often thickened with the author’s famously run-on sentences; the cover spoofs those of lurid paperback fantasies, and, toward the end, it turns out that The Diviners is something of an extended joke about plot itself." Mark Athitakis

Rocky Mountain News 2 of 5 Stars
"[A]s he charges on, it becomes clear that he’s let the epic promise of The Diviners slip between his fingers. . . . [U]nfortunately, the result is as unsatisfying as a pat Hollywood ending." Traver Kauffman

Critical Summary

The "almost freakishly gifted stylist" Rick Moody concocts his latest as if it were The Bonfire of the Vanities as written by James Joyce (or so says The Washington Post). Most critics (at least those on the coasts) agree that the author’s writerly gifts give new life to the age-old practice of Hollywood satire. As always, he does go way over the top (for example, the overlong prologue waxes poetic about the sun rising across the globe, and don’t we already know that the god of pop culture is a false god?), but most reviewers could forgive the lapses. More important, Moody seems to be having fun. And there’s something divine in that alone.