The author of Garden State and The Ice Storm, Moody, 54, is recognized for both strong prose and a daring and ever-changing style. In his newest novel, Hotels of North America, Moody marks this digital era we are in with Reginald Morse, a character whose collection of online hotel reviews is less about travel tips and more about desolation.
What's on your nightstand?
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, believe it or not. I think I read some of it when I was young and also read a classic comics version, and I saw a few movies based on the novel, but I had not gone through and read the entirety of the original, which I am going to teach in a couple of weeks. (The class is "Nontraditional Writing by Women: A Survey" at New York University.) I have really been enjoying it immensely. It's deeply philosophical, not so horror-oriented as you might think from all its myriad reenactments. Everyone should read Frankenstein.
I understand that at an early age you became a fan of Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea. How old were you?
Do you think Hemingway would be the writer who would inspire you today, if you were a youth unknowingly about to embark on a career as a storyteller?
I think The Old Man and the Sea was deliberately written in very accessible language so that the story would have near universal value, and so it was perfect for me. I was very emotionally overwhelmed by it. Just the simple elemental specifics of the tale. I think my dad was probably trying to work me up to Moby-Dick, which is a favorite of his. This was the starter version. I'd also read Jaws somewhere in there, too. Lots of books about the ocean. Old Man and the Sea when you're 12 really is about an old man and the sea, and I understood it as such. The heavily symbolic literary journeys came later. I think (the story) would still be great for younger readers, and I bet it still calls to them.
The Ice Storm will forever be on my top shelf. It sets the bar when it comes to marking a page in American history and culture. You do this again with Hotels of North America, with a completely different style. What does Rick Moody consider the best tools to gather data on society?
Let pleasure be your guide. Hotels of North America was written from watching things happen online and seeing how online life crowds out the regular human analogue sometimes now. I think longingly of the old version of culture, the kind where you call people up and go out to lunch with them and catch up. Where you talk to people face to face. I think that old life is good, but you have to write about what you really see and feel in the world. I can't go back to The Ice Storm and the '70s. I already did all of that. I have to be where I am now with forms of storytelling that are derived from what I am seeing around me now.
Contact Piper Castillo at email@example.com. Follow @Florida_PBJC.