on 9 June 2007
This book has got its merits, which surely raise it above the one starred reviews its garnering here on Amazon. Its occasionally funny, often raw scenes(the elderly woman drinking and being sick, locked in her toilet and her past is particularly real I thought), and it certainly captures a New York that is immune to weird. Nothing is shocking to its cast of characters, everything is already written or, better still, turned into an epic miniseries.
I think the authors attempts to be so uncaringly postmodern, so devoid of any empathy for any of the characters or the situations they find themselves in, make this a difficult read. Characters you don't love to hate. You just hate. So whilst brave its just not easy to like this book, but it is easy, for me at least, to admire it.
on 30 August 2006
This book achieved the rare feat of forcing me to abandon it long before the end. In its defence I might accept that it could be a book that may polarise opinion, but if it's a case of love it or hate it I'm firmly in the hate camp.
I persevered for some 2 or 300 hundred pages in the hope that the jarring dichotomy between the subject -the well trodden path of the superficiality of the modern world as reflected through the media- and the quasi-mythical writing style may come together through some genius of synergy, but it simply didn't. It just got increasingly pretentious, and increasingly annoying. The final straw was probably the 3 page analysis of parabolic arcs to describe someone falling off a bicycle.
Worst of all was that to me Moody's points of reference and intention seemed every bit as blatant as his inability to match them.
As an exploration of the Manhattan media elite his characters seemed wholly unconvincing compared to those of Jay Macinerney, his important exploration of modern America feeble compared to Jonathan Franzen, and his surrealist deviations in to modern mythology simply dull and unimaginative compared to Jonathan Safren Foer.
on 12 January 2010
I loved, loved, loved this panoramic, ensemble New York-set novel because it provides a phantasmogoric snapshot of a deranged turn-of-the-century American psyche. The prose sets its sights high and maintains its high-octane quality from the first page to the last: it's of quite breathtaking quality, but generous and wise too. Moody takes you into the teeming brains of a diverse multitude, but keeps a firm grip on the reins of the story. This is true creative genius at work. Moody's scope brings to mind writers like Jonathan Safran Foer and David Mitchell. I am amazed that this vast, intelligent, hilarious, and wise work of fiction has been so underrated in the UK. I read it alongside another wonderful New York novel with a similar narrative shape - the much-praised Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann - but I found this to be the superior of the two.
This is a massive ego trip - Moody digresses on digressions and riffs on subjects as widely distant as Krispy Kreme Donuts and Ghenghis Khan. But that's all he does, he riffs. This novel is one long, long series of entertaining (in themselves) riffs. It is not a novel. The characters are uniformly extreme riffers, in thought, deed and action and therefore seem nothing more than the manifestations of a single riffing consciousness. I could not read it without a feeling of extreme restlessness. It is not that Moody takes too long to come to the point, it is that there is no point.
on 9 August 2008
Nearly seventy years ago, another Brunonian, Nathanael West, wrote "Day of the Locust", a classic satire about Hollywood culture. Now Rick Moody has wrought a bold, ambitious novel about Hollywood which deserves favorable comparison to West's novel. But "The Diviners" is a bold, ambitious novel which may not find favor with those who prefer linear fictional narratives, but rather, with those, like myself, who prize elegant, stylistic prose, even if it tends to be frequently overwrought; more in the style of a Neal Stephenson than a William Gibson (Though here Rick shares Gibson's recent interest in telling tales that are rather short on plot and are much more fascinating as stylish, well-written character vignettes.), for example. It's because I truly treasure Rick's lyrical prose that I regard him highly on my list of favorite authors (He ranks third after William Gibson and Jonathan Lethem; I will also confess that he was a classmate of mine in a writing seminar taught by a visiting professor, novelist Angela Carter.), and here in "The Diviners", he doesn't disappoint at all.
Set around the time of the 2000 American presidential election, "The Diviners" is ostensibly the tale of Vanessa Meandro, the ruthless, dictatorial head of the independent film production company "Means of Production", who believes that she has found the next hot property; a sprawling television miniseries about dowsers, "The Diviners", which is a veritable history of Mankind and his insatiable search for water. But the delightful Ms. Meandro, addicted to Krispy Kreme donuts, doesn't know that neither a treatment nor a script exists for this NEXT BIG THING emanating from Hollywood. She must rely upon the able assistance of her assistant - and aspiring filmmaker - Annabel Duffy and a Grade B film actor, Thaddeus Griffin, best known for his roles in Doug Limonesque action thrillers, in conjuring up the script. Along the way she has to contend with her hospitalized mother from Park Slope, Brooklyn, who has "visions" in her hospital ward, hires a Sikh cab driver as her television guru, deals with some rather vain and pretentious New York City publicists, and a larcenious accountant who steals tens of thousands of dollars from the production company, illegally writing it off as business expenses. Meanwhile, Annabel's brother (They are the adopted Afro-American offspring of a WASPy Boston minister and his sociologist wife.) is the prime suspect in the attempted murder of an Asian-American art dealer in Manhattan. And Thaddeus Griffin heads out to Sonoma County, California to meet with the world's greatest writer of wine, Randall Tork (He's a hilarious doppleganger for the "greatest" literary critic of our time, one Dale Peck, who thinks of himself as the next Walter Kirn or Michiko Kakutani (As for Ms. Kakutani, I respect her judgement in her "tepid" appraisal of Frank McCourt's "Teacher Man" which appears in the 11/15/05 issue of The New York Times, and would not advocate what a customer reviewer has demanded in a Amazon.com customer review of "Teacher Man". I find it ironic that Ms. Kakutani has rendered such a verdict, since she was the one who "discovered" Frank McCourt in her glowing review of "Angela's Ashes". Personally, I think she's mistaken, but regardless, she has a right to express her opinion in print, without potential harrasment from irate Amazon.com customers.)), seeking his assistance in writing the script for "The Diviners".
"The Diviners" may be a bloated gem of a novel, but it is also irresistably hilarious. It's the funniest book published in 2005 that I have read so far. To his credit, Rick offers an amusing sendup of Joss Whedon's "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" in his fictional popular television drama "The Werewolves of Fairfield County" (And perhaps you, the reader, might have thought that he has forsaken completely his fictional roots in suburbia as evidenced in his novels "Garden State", "The Ice Storm" and "Purple America"? I think that you're in for a splendid, downright silly surprise!). Although "The Diviners" may not be the genuine literary classic which "The Ice Storm" has become, without question, Rick Moody has written his best work of fiction since that slender, elegantly-crafted novel.