9780316592109 / 0316592102

Demonology: Stories


Publisher:Back Bay Books



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About the book:

Rick Moody is a traditionalist. Despite his page-long paragraphs, brand-name dropping, obsessive cataloguing of workplace ritual, seemingly random italicising 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 fiancée. "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 and the reader will go along willingly. --Claire Dederer

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