Readers and critics of Rick Moody generally praise the long and lyrical sentences, sarcastic wit, and meandering asides typical of his misunderstood but sensitive protagonists. For Moody fans who have come to appreciate the Holden Caulfieldesque pathos beneath the sense of urgency and big vocabulary in books like The Ice Storm and Demonology, his memoir The Black Veil will offer more of the same. What's different, however, is that this time the protagonist is Moody himself. The book, subtitled A Memoir with Digressions, reads at times like a delicious essay collection outlining Moody's Connecticut childhood (complete with recipes for the perfect lobster roll and significance of the wax bean), and at times like a work of passionate literary criticism. But whether Moody discusses the impact of his parents' divorce, his alcoholic excesses in college and Manhattan, his time at an inpatient psychiatric unit, or his obvious passion for literature, his memoir does what so many current works in this genre do not: it shows the author looking beyond himself, through literature, to a world larger and more spiritual than the one in which he lives.
The titular black veil refers to a Hawthorne story (appended) about a New England minister Moody believes may be a relative. Moody's book is not so much about his quest to research the story of the black veil, despite the trek he makes to Maine to do just that, as it is the account of his personal relationship to that story. While die-hard Moody fans may find the book a surprising departure, those who want to know him more intimately will enjoy accompanying him on this personal and intellectual journey. --Jane Hodges [via]