Rick Moody and 'The Diviners'

A detail from the cover of Rick Moody's latest novel.

A detail from the cover of Rick Moody's satirical novel. hide caption

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Rick Moody, author of The Ice Storm, has just published his first novel in seven years. The Diviners satirizes the entertainment industry, circa 2000. Moody tells Linda Wertheimer the book should be read like a TV series.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Coming up, Scott Simon reports from the Gulf of Mexico.

But first, "The Diviners" is the title of Rick Moody's new novel. His first novel, "Garden State," was very well reviewed, prize-winning. This one has opened to mixed reviews, mostly having to do with the book's swirling cast of characters, pasted-up structure and brilliantly written but not necessarily significant detours that pop up throughout the book. However, reviewers and readers, including this one, say the book is very, very funny. Rick Moody joins us from Boston from the studios of our member station WBUR.

Welcome.

Mr. RICK MOODY (Author, "The Diviners"): Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Now I'm not sure that this is a fair question, but what is your novel about?

Mr. MOODY: Well, I could use the old Henry James line, `It's about 600 pages.' But besides that, I think that, at least for me, it's about the idea that between the end of the Clinton presidency and the beginning of the 9/11 period, there was a sort of an interregnum in American culture. And that period was characterized by a certain wild desperation that best expressed itself as a kind of spiritual thirst.

WERTHEIMER: A spiritual thirst?

Mr. MOODY: That's right.

WERTHEIMER: You explain it in sort of terms of the entertainment industry, right?

Mr. MOODY: I do.

WERTHEIMER: So what were you thinking? I mean that literally. How did you conceive of the book?

Mr. MOODY: I knew that I wanted to work with an indie film production company and I knew that I wanted them to try to sell out massively and to attempt a deal with the television business. And partly I wanted to do that because television is something that contemporary literature really ignores and looks down on a little bit. But once I started doing that, I got so excited by the research that I was doing, I got to love so much the way serial narrative works in contemporary television that I sort of structured the book around that kind of a notion, that episodic quality.

WERTHEIMER: Well, that explains a lot, I have to say. If you didn't care too much about identifying all of the characters, you know, this book is a little bit like Dickens. Every once in a while, you feel compelled to go back 50 pages to try to find out who somebody is. If you didn't care much about that, you could just about read a chapter a night and have a good laugh right before you go to sleep.

Mr. MOODY: That's the idea, for it to be like a TV show...

WERTHEIMER: Uh-huh.

Mr. MOODY: ...and especially like a TV show that gets canceled right at the best part of the run. I have very little sympathy for the adult attention deficit disorder readership that doesn't like to take its time and experience a little longer now and then in one's fiction. So I like this kind of thing in other people's books, and, you know, it worked for Laurence Sterne and Tristram Shandy, so I'm just sticking with it.

WERTHEIMER: I wonder about your characters. Do you think of one of your characters as being the hero or the heroine of this serial?

Mr. MOODY: Yeah, there are two. The main character for me is the principal owner-operator of the indie film company who's called Vanessa Meandro. She's sort of a slightly ill-tempered but ultimately big-hearted, you know, Northeastern, liberal-educated film buff. The principal character of the foil narrative, the other narrative that's most central to the book, is a bipolar bike messenger called Tyrone Duffy, who is the older brother of one of Vanessa Meandro's employees.

WERTHEIMER: Vanessa is a compulsive overeater and doughnuts serve as a cure for her. Could you read part of that?

Mr. MOODY: `Toward you, Krispy Kreme, we swim as in the waters of the Ganges. Krispy Kreme beacon for the forgotten and disenfranchised. Krispy Kreme with your bounteous offerings. Who else loves so unconditionally and gives so unstintingly? Who else puts others first so graciously and humbly?'

WERTHEIMER: Right. Now I--it goes on after that, I have to say, and there is a line that occurs later on about Krispy Kreme. I'm quoting, "a doughnut that tastes like the happy ending of a romantic comedy as purveyed by a vertically integrated, multinational entertainment provider under German ownership."

Mr. MOODY: I actually did go to every single free-standing Krispy Kreme on the island of Manhattan one day and ate 14 Krispy Kreme donuts. So I insist that that's a true characterization of a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

WERTHEIMER: Including the one--the triple chocolate one?

Mr. MOODY: That was the last one I had, 'cause I knew if I started with that I was doomed.

WERTHEIMER: Rick Moody's newest book is called "The Diviners." Thank you for coming in.

Mr. MOODY: My pleasure.

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