It's legitimate to ask how it was that out of 100 books considered by the National Book Awards panel Rick Moody chaired, the fiction award went to an upper-class author, Lily Tuck, from Moody's own social circle.
It's legitimate to question his essay in The Believer in which he claims not to have known anything about Ms. Tuck; that she was born in France and lives in New York City. Is this credible?
Where was Rick Moody when Lily Tuck won her PEN award in 2000? Moody is a key PEN member; attends most of their events; has sat on PEN grants panels. He seems never to have run into Ms. Tuck over the years, or even heard of her; not once.
Where was Rick Moody when the Paris Review published Lily Tuck? Past Paris Review editor George Plimpton is credited with having discovered Rick Moody. Moody has written for them often, been heavily involved with the journal, engaged in discussions with its editor over how it's run. He must've missed that issue.
It's legitimate to question a literary world that distributes its funds time and again "in-house"; a wealthy decision-maker handing the money to another wealthy Insider, at tax write-off events with $12,000 tables. Moody doesn't know why he's called on to chair such panels-- when it seems obvious that rich arts foundations are comfortable with one of their own.
For Rick Moody there's no context to his viewpoint. He can talk of thinking "outside the box," but in truth he lives inside a box. America with its various stratified hierarchies, its chasms of rich and poor, has no meaning to him. His box resides on a shelf in a closet, within the large house of America-- in the most comfortable room on the uppermost floor-- and within that box inside that closet everything is wonderful.
And so he's able to construct essays of absurdities which to him are completely logical. The essays make perfect sense within the box.
The vertically integrated monopolistic publishing industry, to his mind, though staffed with Ivy Leaguers, has suddenly become filled with populists. The elitist New York Times Book Review has suddenly also become radically populist, interested only in best-selling page turners. (Ignore last week's front-page article by Insider Walter Kirn about Insider darling Jonathan Safran Foer.)
Moody's complaints have no connection to reality. His attitude is reactionary; Thermidorean. If he wants the book conglomerates changed, it's to have revolution from above-- an aristocratic coup. He's retreating into his privileged "Three Thousand" of the Moody Doctrine; those who can appreciate the inscrutable narcissistic meanderings of Lily Tuck or himself. Even his friend Laura Miller isn't privileged or snobby enough. Condescendingly he dismisses her knowledge. She's not up to snuff! Not fit for Literature as he wants it, a postmodern priesthood equipped with special private knowledge. Moody seeks an elite above the elite. His prescription for what ails lit is to go in the wrong direction! The castle is burning yet he escapes inside it, raises the drawbridge and runs to the parapets as the structure of irrelevance begins crumbling. "Leave me my irrelevance!" his voice is heard to cry as the castle is obscured by dust and smoke.
The lit world has backed this clueless charlatan for five years while ignoring legitimate questions about what kind of literature and process Rick Moody represents. It had better start asking these questions, and more of them, if it hopes to save itself.