Moody has a snarky and whiny essay in the current issue of lit-rag The Believer, which has emerged as chief mouthpiece for the literary upper class. Present throughout as an unmentioned subtext-- from the essay's first page-- is the world's premiere literary watchdog group, the Underground Literary Alliance. Posturing "intellectual" Moody is too gutless to name us. The essay is interesting nevertheless as a portrait of a floundering literary Overdog beset by internal doubts about what he does yet remaining clueless.
Rick Moody is upset that his actions have received criticism. He has it so tough! Attends all these swanky hoggish feed-at-the-trough parties out of the goodness of his heart; distributes taxpayer or tax-sheltered money to his Ivy League buds, and nobody appreciates it! It almost gives him heartburn in the middle of another overpriced Manhattan lunch. ("Another bottle of wine, Monsieur.")
Moody feigns not to have anything to do with his well-off friends Franzen and Antrim receiving NEA awards when he sat on the Fiction panel. "Awards? Not me! I was nowhere around. It must have been a Rick Moody imposter." The classic case of the kid with chocolate-covered face insisting he went nowhere near the cookie jar.
Wealthy aristocrat Moody sits on awards panel after awards panel, as he admits, but to him the process remains a mystery. The eternal innocent, indulged mansion-baby in silk diapers. He carelessly answers the phone. A rich foundation wants him to chair yet another grants panel! (Curious that ULAers never get such phone calls.) Money, money, everywhere. In the middle of it all sits Rick Moody playing with his rattle, an accidental bystander.
In the essay he forgets to mention the egregious grants he's received. No explanation of why he never gave the funds back. Could he be more greedy than he pretends? Is this possible? Dare we think so? (Let's pause to applaud him for starting the New York Public Library's Young Lions soirees, a wealthy club which awards yet more monies-- public?-- to literary Insiders. Prince Moody in his stone-walled palace counts this as an accomplishment.)
In the hilarious body of the piece Moody attacks the New York Times and Laura Miller at Salon. They've suddenly lost all credibility. Does this extend to the many features, articles, interviews et.al. they've done over the years on him? If Laura Miller doesn't know what she's talking about, maybe she was wrong as well about Franzen, Eggers, and others she's lauded.
At one point, to justify the horrendous fiction choices of the recent National Book Awards (which are unengaging to readers now and will be moreso in the future), Moody actually brings up the "vertically integrated monopolistic entertainment" industry, and says those who criticize him "can't think outside the box." Hmm. I wonder where he got these notions. From this blog?
He's like a corporate board member up in the executive suite who at lunchtime ducks out the back door of the skyscraper, throws off his tie and joins demonstrators out front. "Power to the people!" he shouts, raising his fist. Then he ducks back in, riding the express elevator to the top floor in time for the next corporate vote.
This privileged character's entire CAREER has been built on the vertical integration of literature-- from the conglomerates publishing his books and the glossy Conde Nast conglomerate mags publicizing him while publishing his stories and articles. He's a product of America's vertically organized educational system. He graduated from Columbia and Brown, after all-- not a school in Cleveland or North Dakota! He has known throughout his writing life exactly how to ride the elevator to the top floor-- because he started there.
When he describes this vertically integrated society, he could include the economic and financial system-- cataloging the globally powerful banks his ultra-rich father has worked for. Dad has chaired his own share of foundations (maybe owns a couple). He is, in fact, one of the several hundred-or-so individuals who run this planet.
But Rick, maybe we've misjudged you. Despite appearances, while your "not for everyone" literary taste presupposes a hierarchical literature, maybe you're a dissident after all. If so, let us know!
Writers in this corrupt land who think for real outside the box and live their thoughts are those in the Underground Literary Alliance.