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Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions

3.06  ·  Rating Details ·  432 Ratings  ·  48 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)
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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,
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
Nov 07, 2007 Gabriel rated it did not like it
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.
Dec 04, 2008 Seth rated it did not like it
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
Aug 13, 2011 Mike Lester rated it it was ok
To quote John Barth, italics "should be used sparingly."
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
Jan 11, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 04, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it
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
Jul 30, 2007 Elise rated it liked it
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
Suzanne Macartney
Aug 23, 2007 Suzanne Macartney rated it liked it
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
Jul 12, 2013 Abraham rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Monica Copeland
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jason McGathey
Nov 29, 2010 Jason McGathey rated it it was amazing
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
Antonia Crane
Nov 07, 2009 Antonia Crane rated it liked it
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
Emily Kramer
Mar 30, 2008 Emily Kramer rated it liked it
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
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.
Larry Scarzfava
Jul 29, 2011 Larry Scarzfava rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 21, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
His ambitious first memoir (in the age of memoir) and a fine one combining the quest of origins, genealogy mixed with a literary lesson, and a very personal narrative.
Brent Legault
Apr 19, 2014 Brent Legault rated it liked it
The memoir wasn't much, but the digressions were first rate.
Jul 15, 2012 S rated it did not like it
The first 3 and last 3 pages are good. The rest is tedious.
Simone Subliminalpop
Moody ha un ritmo, un respiro!, che pochi, forse nessuno, scrittore contemporaneo possiede. Tuttavia ritengo questo libro (leggermente incagliato nelle parti più lunghe riguardati “Il velo nero”) una cosa a sé stante, una lettura che potrà essere apprezzata in pieno solo dai suoi lettori più sfegatati. Se volete (dovete!) leggere qualcosa di Moody, iniziate con Demonology o La più lucente corona d’angeli in cielo.
Aug 18, 2007 Christy rated it liked it
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
Emily T.
Jan 20, 2011 Emily T. rated it liked it
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.
Mar 28, 2007 Brandy rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007reads, adult
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?
Jim Lavis
Feb 20, 2016 Jim Lavis rated it did not like it
I tried reading this book, but only got about 100 pages into it and said, "enough is enough." I know I'm a bit compulsive, because once I start reading a book, I feel almost obligated or compelled to finish it. Now I see why the reviews were all over the map. It's a slow start and strange way to write a memoir. I guess I just don't like the authors approach. Maybe I'll come back to it. Who knows.
Annie Holmes
Aug 03, 2011 Annie Holmes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 20, 2009 Christopher rated it liked it
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.
Davide Mastracci
Jun 10, 2015 Davide Mastracci rated it it was ok
Some parts of this were really good, particularly the chapters pertaining to his alcoholism and nervous break down. But the format of the book, with the major digressions into his family history, didn't really work for me. I wish the book had a more straight forward approach, and touched on a broader range of his life.
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".
May 22, 2015 Kati rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Parts of this book were very interesting and the way it was written was very honest, but I got really bogged down in all the historical and literary interludes. I like history and literature quite a lot so for me this was an issue of flow and Moody not being able to write as compellingly about other people's pasts as about his own.
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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.

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