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Purple America : a novel /

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Little, Brown, 1997
Edition: First edition.
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SUMMARY

With The Ice Storm and The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven, Rick Moody established himself as one of the boldest and most imaginative writers at work today. Now, in Purple America, he delivers the tour-de-force triumph fans have been waiting for -- a masterly novel that recalls the best work of Updike and Roth.

Hex Raitliffe's family is fissioning. His ailing and elderly mother has lately been abandoned by his stepfather, and Hex has been summoned home to tangle not only with adult responsibilities, but with painful memories of the past. Drinking isn't helping. The romantic uncertainties of adolescence, in the person of one Jane Ingersoll, only muddle things more. And confronting his stepfather, who's mired in a crisis of his own at the dilapidated nuclear power plant down the coast, is definitely a mistake. Over the course of a single incendiary night, Hex, his mother, his stepfather -- and a cast including ghosts of family and friends past and present -- will discover the devastating uncertainty principles of family.

Cast in a brilliant series of interknit voices, Purple America explores the profound connections between the forces that bind both family and the society in which familial love is played out.


Review by Booklist Review

Moody tackles many dark themes here involving the pollution of the body, spirit, and environment, but he does so in prose that is so powerful and moving that reading his novel becomes a transfixing rather than a depressing experience. Melancholy alcoholic Hex Raitliffe has been summoned home by his invalid mother, Billie, the victim of a raging neurological disorder that has left her body paralyzed and her speech garbled. She has been abandoned by her second husband, Lou Sloane, the manager of a nuclear power plant. Lou has left Billie, not because she daily faces some grave new insult to her health, but because he cannot bear the fact that she has given up all hope. Hex, a trust-fund baby and a neglectful son, struggles mightily, if ineffectually, to rise to the challenge of caring for his mother and to talk her out of her request for help in killing herself. Over the course of an incendiary weekend, he works himself into a drunken fever, picks up a woman he used to have a crush on, confronts his stepfather, and, finally, disastrously, attempts to fulfill his mother's request. Closely interknitting his narrative with the lyrical, soaring monologues of all the key players, Moody effortlessly moves from one striking passage to the next. Although he takes his material straight from the blaring headlines (mercy killing, nuclear spillage), it's the characters' voices, so full of urgency and distress, that are unforgettable. --Joanne Wilkinson

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Ambitious, stylistically dazzling and heartfelt, this fourth novel from a Pushcart Prize winner (Garden State) chronicles the meltdown in a single evening of a well-to-do Connecticut family. Dexter "Hex" Raitliffe‘middle-aged, stuttering, alcoholic‘returns home to care for his ailing mother, Billie. Suffering from a degenerative disease, Billie has lost her mobility, her speech‘and her hope. So exhausted is her second husband, Lou (manager at a crumbling nuclear power plant beset with problems of its own), that he reluctantly abandons her. Their lives come to crisis poignantly and violently in one night; Moody's dense prose evokes their "dance of feelings" in their disparate voices. Tenderness and guilt war in Lou's mind even as we understand Hex's conviction that his stepfather, who callously left his farewell to his wife typed out on her voice synthesizer, is monstrous and selfish. Hex's own struggles against self-abasement and denial and Billie's rage at her illness are also powerfully rendered in urgent, intense stream-of-consciousness. The novel catalogues the detritus that fills their thoughts; fragments of the technical jargon of nuclear power and of neurological medicine; the features on the face of coastal Connecticut; Billie's obsession with lavender. That linguistic play is dazzling‘so much so that it sometimes overshadows the drama it is meant to serve (as in an episode in which Billie finds herself neglected at the restaurant where she and Hex were to dine). It serves less ably the various secondary characters. But the specificity and nuance of the voices of Hex, Billie and Lou drive the story towards a climax that is grotesque, inexorable and deeply sad. $75,000 ad/promo; author tour; U.K. and translations rights: Melanie Jackson Agency. (Apr.) FYI: A film based on Moody's second novel, The Ice Storm, starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, opens this spring. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

The explosive cleavage of the atom and its attendant fallout provide the arch-metaphor for Moody's third novel. Billie Raitliffe, of Fenwick, Connecticut, suffers from a paralyzing neuralgic disorder and cannot care for herself. Younger husband Lou Sloane, a nuclear plant manager, has moved out, so she calls on her middle-aged, alcoholic son Dexter (Hex). The specter of Hex's father, a Manhattan Project scientist who died of radiation poisoning, hovers perceptibly over the proceedings. In a 36-hour span, Billie is injured, Hex consummates a lingering high school crush in a bizarre fashion, and Lou presides over a nuclear emergency the day of his forced early retirement. The events do not occur discretely but are part of a chain reaction Moody engineers in an atomic experiment. He renders his findings in vivid, intense, and often unpleasant detail, effectively reviving the nuclear threat and limning its symbolic and etymological resonance with domestic breakdown (half-life, decay) without denying the humanity of the characters or the centrality of the story. Despite the occasionally overwrought prose, Moody has redrawn the suburban landscape, as defined by Updike and Cheever. Fans of both will want to discover this new country.‘Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
AUTHOR NOTES

Novelist Rick Moody was born in Fairfield, Connecticut on October 18, 1962. He is an undergraduate of Brown University and has a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Columbia University. Moody's works often demonstrate the concept that money makes no difference in the problems people face. His first novel, Garden State, won Pushcart's Tenth Annual Editor's Book Award. The Ice Storm (1994) was adapted into the 1997 film starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. 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. He has also won the Addison Metcalf Award and has received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Moody's memoir The Black Veil (2002) won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. His other works include The Diviners and The Four Fingers of Death. In 2012 he won Fernanda Pivano Award in Italy.

Moody has taught at Yale University, Princeton University, the State University of New York at Purchase and Bennington College, and New York University.

(Bowker Author Biography)


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