INTERVIEW BY: John Wisniewski

Rick Moody is a native New Yorker whose first novel, Garden State was the winner of the 1991 Editor’s Choice Award from the Pushcart Press and whose book The Ice Storm was made into a film directed by Ang Lee  (released by Fox Searchlight in 1997, and won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival.)  He is a prolific writer whose works have been praised by fellow writers and critics alike, and in 1999 The New Yorker chose him as one of America’s most talented young writers, listing him on their “20 Writers for the 21st Century” list.

The Ice Storm was widely acclaimed by readers and critics alike, described as a funny, acerbic, and moving hymn to a dazed and confused era of American life. The feature film had a cast that included Joan Allen, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire and Katie Holmes in her screen debut.

Moody has taught at Yale University, Princeton University, the State University of New York at Purchase and Bennington College, and currently teaches at New York University. In this interview, John Wisniewski finds out what inspires Moody.

When did you begin writing? Did you publish short stories?

So you’re only asking really easy questions! Good! Makes it less time-consuming! I began writing in the sixth grade, but I didn’t really finish anything good until I was 16 or so. Mostly bad free-verse love poetry and the like before that. I did start trying to finish short stories in the 16-18 year old span, and have always written some of them, a few a year, since that time.

Rick Moody. PHOTO BY: Seamus Kearney

Rick Moody. PHOTO BY: Seamus Kearney

Who are some of your favorite authors?

V. Woolf, S. Beckett, W. G. Sebald, Thomas Bernhard, Michel de Montaigne, Lydia Davis, Herman Melville, Roland Barthes, William Gaddis, etc.

Did you like the adaptation of your book, when made into a film?

What’s not to like? I never cared if it was 100% faithful to the source material, I just wanted it to be a good film. Which I believe it is.

 Any favorite films, Rick?

Many favorite films, though as with all such lists, today’s is snapshot of April 28, 2015 at 9:58 and in no way should be considered definitive: FANNY AND ALEXANDER (Bergman), GROUNDHOG DAY, TRUST (Hal Hartley), THE WOLF KNIFE (Laurel Nakadate), GREY GARDENS (Maysles), CHIEN ANDALOU (Dali/Bunuel), PUBLIC HOUSING (Wiseman), THE BANK DICK (W. C. Fields), GUMMO (Korine), 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Kubrick), etc.

Is it difficult to transfer a novel to the big screen?

It wasn’t difficult for me, because I had no particular role in it. I just watched, from the novelist’s chair. You would have to ask James Schamus and Ang Lee.

Are there any trends currently in writing and films that you like, or maybe some you do not like?

In film I liked mumblecore, though that was back a ways. I like micro budget, hand-made, DV stuff. I like Vine sometimes. I do not give a shit about most what is produced by the big studios. Those films give me a headache, and they are all formulaic. This seems obvious to me. In literature, these days, I am interested in things in translation. For example, I love the small press called Archipelago, and much of what they do. I like Dalkey Archive Press, still. Every now and then I am moved by something happening on the web. I also like REALLY OLD things. Like I worked on rereading Dante for eighteen months, and then I reread DON QUIXOTE for six months, and now I am reading Chaucer (in several different versions), more or less in its entirety. I would rather read Chaucer than read whoever is the hot young novelist.

Are there any artists that may inspire you or music that you may like?

I really like artists who work across media boundaries, who are good at more than one thing, or whose theoretical approaches lead, apparently inevitably, to some kind of broadening of form and medium. Examples would be Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, John Cage, Don Van Vliet, Brian Eno, Frank Zappa, Meredith Monk, W. G. Sebald, Marina Abramovic, Yoko Ono, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, John Baldessari, John Fahey, John Lurie, etc.

 What may have inspired your writing “The Ice Storm”, Rick?

Many different and diverse things inspire each project. THE ICE STORM happened a long, long time ago, and it’s kind of hard to remember (I started it in 1989 or 1990). My recollection is that it had a lot to do with Watergate in general and with American involvement in Cambodia specifically. The idea being that hypocrisy at the top trickles down into regular lives. That was sort of what I remember getting me excited about writing it.

 Could you tell us about what are working on now?

I’m about to publish a new novel, HOTELS OF NORTH AMERICA, that is written as a sequence of hotel reviews by a disgruntled online personage.


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