four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
30-Sept-Oct-2007
By: 
Rick Moody
user_rating: 
0

Three Novellas

A-Right LivelihoodsIn each of the three novellas comprising Rick Moody’s eighth book, distrustful, emotionally isolated characters struggle to make sense of post-9/11 American culture. Dr. Jamie Van Deusen, a retired government official living in an alcohol-fueled fantasy world, believes he has uncovered a terrorist plot in "The Omega Force." "K&K" follows Ellie Knight-Cameron as she becomes increasingly obsessed with the identity of the employee leaving nasty notes in the company suggestion box. "The Albertine Notes" takes place in an unrecognizable, post-nuclear Manhattan. Here, freelance writer Kevin Lee charts the sudden proliferation of a hallucinogenic drug called Albertine, which allows users to escape the horrors of reality by reliving their happiest memories.
Little, Brown and Company. 223 pages. $23.99. ISBN: 0316166340

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"‘The Albertine Notes,’ the third piece in the collection, more than makes up for the middle-of-the-book slump. It is, I want to shout this out, a triumphant work of speculative prose." Alan Cheuse

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"While ‘The Omega Force’ and ‘The Albertine Notes’ swell with allegory, the middle novella in Right Livelihoods, ‘K&K,’ is a spare fable that courts the current craze for dry send-ups of the American workplace. … Even here, Moody never puts a foot wrong; he just sends his character down a path that’s too well worn." Liesl Schillinger

San Diego Union-Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Right Livelihoods is filled with very funny moments, masterful writing and intelligence. Moody documents our culture at this moment, and seems to caution us against its worst qualities: paranoia strung into ridiculousness; work mistaken for security; overcompliance; overemphasis on mental acuity sufficient for any on-demand task; and the pressure to live too much in the brain and not enough in the soul." Wendy L. Smith

Toronto Star 4 of 5 Stars
"Simultaneously a biting satire and an anguished plea, Right Livelihoods is very much a book of its time and place, chronicling and rebuking an America obsessed with homeland security, class and consumerism. … Here [in ‘The Albertine Notes’] the crystalline prose and the chilling plot combine to create a cautionary tale with an unforgettable voice." Darryl Whetter

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Say what you will about Moody—and lord knows he’s had a controversial career— there’s some brilliant stuff here. His chilly, lacerating prose is a seduction, not unlike Albertine itself." Veronique de Turenne

San Francisco Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"Often he succeeds in creating a line of charged prose, but it’s frustrating to read sentences, however luxurious, that don’t mean anything. … Though Moody stubbornly refuses to make sense, he paradoxically also refuses to alienate his readers, at every turn checking over his shoulder to make sure we’re still with him." Jack Livings

Critical Summary

The expression "right livelihood" refers to a Buddhist’s duty to reject any occupation that causes harm to other living beings; Moody uses it as a satirical reference to the paranoia and confusion perpetuated by the main characters in Right Livelihoods. Critics found the novellas uneven, pronouncing the predictable, unconvincing "K&K" the least successful of the three, while claiming that the acerbic political parody in "The Omega Force" compensated for the unlikable Dr. Van Deusen. However, they agreed that "The Albertine Notes," a dark and imaginative tour de force, more than made up for any earlier shortcomings. By turns humorous and chilling, Rick Moody has crafted a disturbing picture of contemporary America in what the Chicago Tribune calls "his subtlest and most darkly comical performance yet."

Also by the Author

The Ice Storm (1994): Two small-town Connecticut families wrestle with social and political upheaval during Thanksgiving weekend in 1973.