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10th Grade202432 Stories4th of July99 DaysA Change in AltitudeA Demon in My ViewA Dream of WolvesA Falling KnifeA Finely Tuned Apathy MachineA Heart of StoneA Life Lived RidiculouslyA Multitude of SinsA Parting GiftA Question of BloodA Quiet PlaceA Red Heart of MemoriesA River SutraA Short History of Tractors in UkrainianA Slight Trick of the MindA Stir of BonesA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December About a BoyAbraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesActs of GodActs of InfidelityAfrican PsychoAfter DarkAfter YouAfter You'd GoneAfterwardsAgenda for MurderAliens in the Prime of Their LivesAll Alone in the UniverseAll Families Are PsychoticAll in the MindAll the Way HomeAltered LandAlternatives to SexAmanda's WeddingAmelia RulesAmericaAmerica AmericaAmnesiaAmong the DepartedAn Object of BeautyAngelsAngry Youth Comix #2AnimosityAnne SextonAre You Experienced?Aristotle and Poetic JusticeAristotle DetectiveArlington ParkArtemis FowlAs Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank MeAsking For MurderAsymmetryAtonementAway Laughing on a Fast CamelBabylon and Other StoriesBad BoyBad SeedBag Of BonesBalancing ActsBarbara the Slut and Other PeopleBeach RoadBeat the ReaperBeautiful GirlsBed of RosesBefore I Go to SleepBefore the FrostBeg the QuestionBeginner's GreekBellyBeneath the SkinBenedictionBest New American VoicesBig BrotherBilly and GirlBiteBlack & WhiteBlack HelicoptersBlack Market TruthBlameBlanketsBleed for MeBlind SightBlonde FaithBlood, Salt, WaterBlueprints for Building Better GirlsBody SurfingBoneMan's DaughtersBoneyardBoneyardBoomsdayBorder CrossingBoth Ways Is the Only Way I Want ItBoysBracketBrain TrustBrava, ValentineBreaking Out of BedlamBreathing UnderwaterBrick LaneBridge of SighsBridget JonesBridget Jones's DiaryBrief Interviews with Hideous MenBruisesBrŁselBullyBurn, Bitchy, BurnButterflyBy BloodBy The Sea ShoreCalled to KillCanadaCanvasCaricatureCase HistoriesCellCemetery DanceChange of HeartChangesChasing the DimeChild 44Cinema PanopticumCinnamon KissCirceCircle NineCity of the LostClay's WayClose toYouClose Your EyesCloud 9 AffairCoincidenceCold CaseCold HitCold in HandCollected StoriesCome Up and See Me SometimeComfort and JoyCompulsionConfessions of a ShopaholicConfessions of an Ex-GirlfriendConsider LoveCouch FictionCrispinCross CountryCruddyCrumpleCutCypherDaddy's GirlsDakotaDamageDancing After HoursDanger in High PlacesDanger! Cross CurrentsDante's PoisonDante's WoodDarkest FearDating Without NovocaineDead BoysDead Canaries Don't SingDead EndDead EvenDeadly AdviceDeadly ButterflyDeadly GambleDeaf SentenceDear American AirlinesDear Zoe,Death of a Department ChairDeath of an AddictDeath with InterruptionsDeath Without TenureDeceitDecemberDeceptionDefending JacobDeliverance From EvilDemonologyDepraved HeartDictatorDisobedienceDisturbing GroundDivine JusticeDivisaderoDixie RoadDon't Wake UpDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDriftlessDuplicityEcstasyEmerald City BluesEmpire FallsEmpress of the WorldEnd over EndEven DeadlierEven Dogs in the WildEvenings at FiveEvery Note PlayedEvery Visible ThingEye ContactFacesFaking ItFalling ManFamily and Other CatastrophesFamily HistoryFascinationFat Angie Fear of the DarkFeeling Sorry for CeliaFellsideFeminist Philosophy And Science FictionFever 1793Field of BloodFinal JeopardyFlashpointFlat Lake in WinterFlorid StatesForgive the MoonFortunate SonFortune's RocksFour Blind MiceFour 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WorldInnocentsInspired SleepInvisibleIronshoreIs This What Other Women Feel Too?It Takes OneIt's Love We Don't UnderstandIt's Not Me, It's YouJacob Have I LovedJimmy CorriganJohn Dies at the EndJournal d'une femme adultŤreJust LifeKhalifahKick the Animal OutKicking the SkyKim: Empty InsideKisscutKissing DoorknobsKissing in AmericaKnife CreekKnockout MouseLambLast Chance SaloonLast NightLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLawnboyLayoverLeft NeglectedLeisureLeo the Lightning BugLeslie's JournalLet Me Be Frank With YouLie to MeLies My Girlfriend Told MeLife After LifeLife ClassLife Is a Strange PlaceLife of PiLike the Red PandaLike You'd Understand, AnywayLikely to DieLillian in LoveLisa, Bright and DarkLisey's StoryListen to the SilenceLithium for MedeaLittle Black LiesLittle ChildrenLittle LitLittle ScarletLiíl SantaLonerLord of the FliesLosing JuliaLostLost GirlLost in the ForestLost Memory of SkinLove and Shame and LoveLove in the AsylumLove Songs for the Shy and 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Rick Moody's latest offering is a set of three novellas, each of which has an apocalyptic theme of sorts. The novellas are also connected by a theme of memory. Perhaps I'm pushing that interpretation, but in the first of the three, The Omega Force, Dr Van Deusen, a retired policy advisor to various US governments is struggling in a willful, defiant sort of way, with alcoholism. In the second, K & K, Ellie Knight-Cameron wonders who is torturing her through the office suggestion box. It turns out that her memory might be playing tricks on her, and she might be the source of her own persecution. Completing the book is The Albertine Notes, a post holocaust sci-fi novel in which a drug known as Albertine plays havoc with memory. The story is narrated by one Kevin Lee, with more than a little suggestion of a nod to Proust, of which more later.
In hardback, Right Livelihoods comes in a retro looking plain paper dust jacket that gives it a comic book sort of feel, suggesting perhaps that is not to be taken too seriously. I know, don't judge a book by its cover. But Little, Brown don't believe this old chestnut. The three novellas do have a throwaway air to them, but they are clever, fast-paced stories, that rollick along at a good clip. There is perhaps the sense of lack of sympathetic characters; in none of these stories are we invited to empathize particularly with the main protagonists. This is not to suggest that Dr Van Deusen, Ellie Knight-Cameron, and Kevin Lee are mere ciphers. They are real enough; there is even something touching about Van Deusen's romantic delusions and Ellie Knight-Cameron's fantasies. Kevin Lee is a fairly self-contained individual, but a good observer of the mayhem going on in and around him. If these three protagonists don't appeal, engagement with the stories is about whether the narrative and writing are strong enough to hold you. There was enough for me, even if Moody writes with a rather flippant tone and seems not to care too much for the niceties of style. Moody does what he does well, and he's good at writing these heavily ironic, almost sardonic stories.
The Omega Force opens with Dr Van Deusen waking up on someone's porch, unsure of his whereabouts, but increasingly convinced that the cheap novel he happens to find there (Omega Force: Code White, by Stuart Hawkes-Mitchell) contains coded information of great significance. The island on which he lives is under threat from an organized conspiracy, and Dr Van Deusen spends the rest of the novella unraveling it. Rather, it is Dr Van Deusen who unravels as he patches over the gaps in his memory with paranoid confabulations. K & K is the story of Ellie Knight-Cameron, an office manager given too much responsibility. In an office of eleven staff, she manages the suggestion box, and becomes increasingly disconcerted by its contents. Poor Ellie becomes obsessed by uncovering the truth of the suggestion box's disturbing contents, and as the hunt narrows to a single (and highly unlikely) suspect Ellie becomes quite unhinged. Moody is merciless, some might think cruel, in creating such a pathetic main character. But there are such people, and at least Moody doesn't patronize them by digging about for redeeming features.
The final story The Albertine Notes is the most intriguing of these three by far. It's a futuristic story set in New York following an explosion that has destroyed vast swathes of the city, and cost four million lives. Kevin Lee is a reporter working on a story about a drug called Albertine that has curious effects on memory. The story shifts between past and future, with the reader sharing Kevin's confusion about where exactly in time he is located. There is even a suggestion that time itself has been destroyed. This is a Proustian story that offers many epiphanies on time and memory. The name of the memory-distorting drug is no coincidence. The story also has the circular structure of Proust's work, with Kevin arriving, at the story's end, at a surprising self-understanding. This is a clever story, told with urgency and economy.
Right Livelihoods is an interesting set of stories. It is as if Moody wanted to experiment a little and see what he could do with certain storylines. Notes in the book state that other authors provided the suggestions for these stories. Moody can feel satisfied that he has answered their call.
© 2007 Tony O'Brien
Tony O'Brien is a short story writer, and lecturer in mental health nursing at the University of Auckland, New Zealand: firstname.lastname@example.org