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Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions

3.06 of 5 stars 3.06  ·  rating details  ·  389 ratings  ·  44 reviews
In his early 20s, a lifetime of excess left Rick Moody suddenly stranded in a depression so profound that he feared for his life. A stay in a psychiatric hospital was just the first step out of mental illness. In this astonishingly inventive book, Moody tells the story of his collapse and recovery in an inspired journey through what it means to be young and confused, older ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 6th 2002 by Little Brown and Company
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(showing 1-30 of 847)
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Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Rick Moody has moments, these brief little flashes of great prose. However the overviews of most of his stories and novels tend to be far less appealing, to put it kindly.

I literally threw this book across the room once I got to the final string of paragraphs which are merely a list of things that are black.

"I oughtta punch you in the face!"
-Upright Citizens Brigade

EDIT: Ok, this book wasn't so terrible. The way it ended though just drives me up the wall. He goes from describing his sister's tr
This book bordered on being a complete waste of time, not because of the presence of anything, but rather because there was really nothing in it that went beyond a general recounting of Moody's life. It wasn't unreadable, but I came out of it with basically one idea.

The one thing I got out of it: I liked the idea that (loose paraphrase coming) entire lives have been left unexplored simply out of the fear of hearing our father's angry voice.
I've tried. I respect his trying, too, to break out, to do it his way. Like Belle and Sebastian, like Thomas Pynchon, Rick Moody's just not for me.
Mike Lester
To quote John Barth, italics "should be used sparingly."
È una storia di padri, e io mi aspettavo una storia di figli.
Non è neppure una storia di padri anagrafici, biologici, naturali, ma di avi più o meno legati da un pallido filo di parentela.
Mi aspettavo, e volevo, la storia del figlio Rick Moody e di suo padre e del padre di suo padre: ho trovato una storia che gira intorno a Hawthorne e a un suo racconto, a un Moody “dal fazzoletto” e all’America che fu e ancora è.

Le pagine di Rick su Rick sono belle e vibranti,
Antonia Crane
While hunting for structure in memoir, I spied on "The Rumpus" and found a reference to this book. It's framed within Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Black Veil" which is interesting, but I'm not convinced it works. It's literal thread is formal and lofty when it could be captivating and urgent. The digressions are pretty great at times-beautiful phrasing-but also self indulgent and tedious. What resonates the best are the relationships in the book, which are sick, like the author. Some sentences are ...more
The first 3 and last 3 pages are good. The rest is tedious.
Neglected Literary Classic Destined To Be Remembered Alongside "Angela's Ashes"

With "The Black Veil", Rick Moody has written a brilliantly realized memoir which I suspect will one day be remembered as well as Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes". Indeed there are many passages throughout "The Black Veil" which rank alongside "Angela's Ashes" for their elegant literary quality. If some readers - and I might add, book reviewers such as the infamous Dale Peck - have been frustrated with "The Black Veil
I'm not always a Moody partisan. I find some of his books to be pointlessly clever or even ugly at times. But this one really worked for me, and that's a hard sell for a couple reasons.

First, I feel like the whole "I'm a writer not an academic and I'm going to school you critics" kind of approach to literature one where writers I otherwise respect often embarrass themselves. I might not agree with Moody's interp here, and especially what he wants to be his takedown of J Hillis Miller, but he doe
Moody puts quotes and references in italics, braiding together his voice and often Nathaniel Hawthorne's, a lot of genealogical and literary sources, etc. I did not miss footnotes. It might be helpful to read Hawthorne's appended "The Minister's Black Veil" before the book, which I did not do, because I did not realize it was there.

Representative quotes:

Moody's introduction to the book: "If birds will describe the obsession, I will break away to describe the birds I have seen; if baseball will
It's odd--leafing through some of the other reviews, I apparently liked/didn't like this for entirely different reasons from its other readers. I'm not nonplussed in the least by his purported inscrutable erudition, enjoyed the delicate fencing-parries he offers at Hawthorne by means of a college acquaintance with Derrida, and wasn't even that hellishly bored by the long chapters of genealogical research (if my family were half as interesting as the Moodys, I'm sure I'd do exactly the same thing ...more
The Black Veil is not a typical memoir. Moody weaves together personal history, genealogical study, historical study, and literary criticism to create an examination of shame. Moody seems to take the veil, conceptually, as a way for people to hide their innermost shame. Even the portions of the book related to his personal history relate to his own feelings of intense shame, surrounding his own battle with depression and drug use.

This book draws heavily on Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The
You have to give moody credit for never bowing to the demands of genre and tradition. He is unerringly in search of a truer approach to whatever he's working on. This memoir is a fantastic example of that. It is experimental and, in the end, not mind-blowingly fun to read. Still, it meanders meaningfully, drops into literary criticism, family-tree research, and over to the well-trod areas of traditional memoir. He works with a Hawthorne story as an over-the-top metaphor, and proceeds to undermin ...more
Suzanne Macartney
Aug 23, 2007 Suzanne Macartney rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: if you like autobiographies
When one needs a break from the contrived nature of novels, there's Rick Moody. Especially this one. Its semiautobiographical, and semi-narrative. You get the impression you're eavesdropping on thoughts meant to be private. It's deep, feels real, but is not so much uplifting for the experience. Partly I think it's fascinating to witness someone who can't hold his life together and partly its the satisfaction of his unique voice.
The veil theme played out just fascinated me.

Publisher's weekly revi
Having read Dale Peck's infamous review of this memoir calling Rick Moody "the worst writer of his generation," I just knew Peck was a pretentious piece of crap and surely this would be wonderful. I was drawn in by the subject matter and setting but while the opening chapters contained some interesting moments they were too often offset by mind-numbingly awful bits of narcissism. There were times it felt like Moody used a Thesaurus to help him string the words together at random. Unfortunately, ...more
Monica Copeland
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I just could not finish. There were scraps that grabbed me but the overall flow was too slow and unfocused.
Jason McGathey
A memoir like no other. Alternating chapters detail his life story, and chart a road trip he and his father took through the old stomping grounds of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, an ancestor of Moody's. The Hawthorne chapters in all honesty are probably something you'd only want to read once, but the confession chapters I return to again and again - his battles with insanity, drinking, drug abuse, and old girlfriends as well as the ongoing struggle to commit his impulses to paper make this a fasci ...more
Emily T.
Certainly not for everyone. If you've read some of Moody's other books, than it is an interesting read to get an eye behind the pages. If you love Nathaniel Hawthorne, then you'd also probably love this book as it doubles as a historic account of Hawthrone's The Minister's Black Veil.

Very dense, but satisfying if you are into any of the subject material.
Brent Legault
The memoir wasn't much, but the digressions were first rate.
Emily Kramer
I often have theories that depart quit drastically from their original subject, much like my theory about Rick Moody's message in this book. Without much evidence to prove my case, I say this book describes depression as the lack of identity whereby you take on the guilt of any history that has come before you. Even where you haven't committed a crime against your own moral conscience, you might just do so at any time without being clear how, when or why it happened. So it's a darkness brought a ...more
Moody did manage to tie together his memoir with "The Minister's Black Veil," but ultimately it was because of a genealogy project--the Moody in the story being, according to family legend, one of Rick Moody's ancestors.

The memoir parts of the book were interesting, and I really enjoyed those sections. The criticism of the short story I have no intention to read, not so much. And really--is a stranger's genealogy interesting to anyone besides the person doing the researching?
Annabel Smith
There were some amazing parts in this book, but they were interspersed with some historical ramblings about Nathaniel Hawthorne and Moody's family history which I found really dull, and after a while stopped reading altogther, just paging through until I got to the next part.

The sections about Moody's breakdown were facinating and the language was so alive. This is the first Rick Moody I have read and I definitely want to read more.
Sarah Emily
Apr 02, 2008 Sarah Emily rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people searching for a 20th century memoir ghostwritten by Hawthorne
Shelves: disappointing
oh, Rick Moody. you continue to be one of my favorite authors. I love your novels. I love your articles and book reviews. hell, I even love your letters to the editor. but I just cannot bring myself to finish your memoir. and it's not because your life isn't interesting - it is. it's fascinating. it's more that I really don't care about Nathaniel Hawthorne.
this book is a bit arduous to read at times, but if you have ever felt like you are losing your mind - this book will speak to you. my copy is marked up all over the place with notations to myself - things i liked that i thought moody said well, things i wanted to remember. i have read it more than once, so i liked it. it was just a chore at points.
Aug 19, 2007 J marked it as to-read
I've read most of Moody's books and honestly I can deal with the common accusations of 'pretension' found in his writing. As far as I'm concerned, he's a literary fiction stud who's too good to pass up or at least delve into a few stories from his collection "The Ring of the Brightest Angels Around Heaven" or his more reputable film-adapted "The Ice Storm".
Annie Holmes
Seven eighths compelling weave of genealogy, lit crit and psychology - personal and national, all tied together through the central image of the veil of shame and remorse. One weird dip late in the book, when all the energy leaks out, but otherwise sustained intensity. 21st century riffs in 19th century sentences.
Probably not the best introduction to Moody. I generally rate memoirs pretty low - just slightly higher than travel books (but for some reason find myself constantly reading both). The man can write though, and somehow managed to get me excited about genealogical study. Which is worth something, I suppose.
Larry Scarzfava
Wow--Rick Moody never ceases to impress me. This work is funny, heart-rending, insightful, analytical, and readable all at once. So often I found myself relating to Moody's past experiences, allowing them to conjure up similar episodes from my own past.
Sep 14, 2011 S added it
Quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. Although it did make for an interesting discussion and still comes up in book group. Our group won this book in a contest - not sure "won" is the correct word.
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Rick Moody (born Hiram Frederick Moody, III on October 18, 1961, New York City), is an American novelist and short story writer best known for The Ice Storm (1994), a chronicle of the dissolution of two suburban Connecticut families over Thanksgiving weekend in 1973, which brought widespread acclaim, and became a bestseller; it was later made into a feature film.

More about Rick Moody...
The Ice Storm Demonology: Stories Purple America The Four Fingers of Death Garden State

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