The Ineluctable Modality of the Marginal

When hes hot, Rick Moody gives us a woody

But the rest of the stories are a decidedly mixed bag, including the long novella, which, along with the title story, anchors the collection. "The Carnival Tradition," half of which is a beautiful rendering of a '70s teen party that shows the conventional Updikean side of Moody's talent in its full unaffected glory, is also one hell of a diffuse, rambling work which Moody seems to think is justified by the story's arch allusion to Bakhtin and his notion of the carnivalesque. Time and time again, Moody pulls annoyingly smartass rabbits out of pretentiously smartass hats, and after a while, you forget the things he does so well. What Moody does beautifully is remember and render, and it's an old-fashioned talent that he doesn't respect enough. Lots of good writers have it, and not all of them are old East Coast WASPs. It's not the fast crowd Moody seems to covet, but it's his.

Demonology by Rick Moody; Little, Brown. 306 pages, hardcover, $24.95.

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