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Review: The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven: A Novella and Stories by Rick Moody

About the Book

In his first story collection, Rick Moody provides readers with a poignant, brazenly honest glimpse into the lives of a wide array of characters, from a paranoid husband obsessively listening in on his wife’s phone calls to the junkies and sex addicts of New York City’s underworld. Whether they’re grasping for connection or struggling to survive in a dismal and indifferent environment, these individuals’ haunting voices and the evocative worlds they inhabit make for a diverse and powerful volume.

Experimenting with form—one story is told as a term paper, another as an annotated bibliography—Moody demonstrates the vast range of his fascinations and talents, as well as his arresting command of language. Candid depictions of contemporary society and the inner-workings of distinctive characters’ minds bring these inquisitive, heartrending, and at times undeniably funny accounts to life.

Review

This collection of short stories is brought to life through the exemplary use of over-telling. We get it all in these stories, the whole dish on every feeling, every doubt, every action, which makes for a unique and, more often than not, troubling look into the lives of the average person.

The Grid is an overview of the happenings of a number of New Yorkers and how their kisses with others lead them into their respective places of destiny. It is both endearing and relatable, as the reader finds themselves watching as lives step out of places of happiness into places of doubt, and the reverse as well. It is especially poignant as a robbery takes place during these moments of passion and we are given not only the good, but the troublesome. It is an honest and reverential look at human life and how our experiences are never quite good and never quite bad, which makes for a truly full life. 

In The Apocalypse Commentary of Bob Paisner, Moody plays with the idea of the academic paper, bringing the reader’s awareness of the form to the forefront. The diction of this story in particular is more casual than an academic paper is usually expected to be, which brings a playfulness to academia that is not usually present. In an interesting twist, Moody gives us an honest response you could imagine anyone having toward the Bible, which keeps the relatability high through this collection of short stories. Bob intermixes his own experiences and feelings, which seem at home with the interpretation of the apocalyptic history of the church.

The Preliminary Notes stands out as a personal favorite, as we’re given a paranoid husband whose occupation involves dealing with personal injuries in businesses and whose doubt directed at his wife swallows up his own sanity. As the first story of the collection, this tale eases us into Moody’s descriptive and seemingly encyclopedic way of writing. It starts off with the reveal of the husband’s surveillance of his wife’s telephone calls and brings the reader into a precarious position. By the end, doubt is springing up on both sides and in the mind of the reader, which makes for an exceptionally intimate look into the issues that can surface in any marriage.

Overall, this is an intriguing and honest look into the lives of humanity. It is abrasive at times and endearing at others. There’s a truly frank revelation of the human experience in these stories and Moody’s writing style sweeps the reader away into intimate places of love and apathy. It is a collection that, if you’re partial to reading short stories, you should pick up. 

Reviewed by Amy Richardson

 

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