THE RING OF BRIGHTEST ANGELS AROUND HEAVEN
Ms. Hen found a little free library outside of Harvard Square two weeks ago. She had seen this box before, but had never gotten any books out of it. A little free library is a box in a public place that has books in it that anyone can take or put in more books. Ms. Hen took the book THE RING OF BRIGHTEST ANGELS AROUND HEAVEN from the library because it was the only one that she thought she would be interested in reading.
The stories in this collection are disjointed. They are all different, sometimes startlingly so. The writing is beautiful and manic. The words dance on the page. But the subject matter of the stories did not please Ms. Hen. She found herself bored and drifting off when she was reading.
The story, “The James Dean Garage Band,” is about a group of young men in the desert in California in the 1950s who James Dean runs into upon and decides to join their rock band. The story is funny, and Ms. Hen felt sorry for the characters because she knew they would never end up anywhere. But the placement of James Dean as a character in the story was done well because the author gave him substance.
“Pip Adrift,” is about Captain Ahab’s cabin boy falling over the side of the Pequod. Ms. Hen didn’t realize that it was about MOBY DICK until the very end of the story because she couldn’t remember Pip. She thought he was a character she should know, but the name Captain Ahab did not appear in the story until the very end.
The title story, about misfits living in New York’s East Village, disturbed Ms. Hen because she knew she should have been more shocked, but she wasn’t. A lesbian hooker auction in the story at a club should have made Ms. Hen squirm, but it didn’t seem shocking enough to her. The characters in this story were losers and they didn’t get better. It made Ms. Hen wonder how people could live like this, but she knows there can be people like this, in the underbelly of big cities.
Ms. Hen thought Moody’s writing style was imitating the Beats, a type of manic poetic prose that spurts with energy. She wondered if Moody wrote in the same way as Jack Kerouac, but she does not think that he does, because Ms. Hen heard Moody give a lecture once and he said he prints all his revisions and Kerouac didn’t revise that much.
The book reminded her of the stories of Mary Gaitskill, crackling writing peppered with darkness and sex. Ms. Hen seems to think that Rick Moody and Mary Gaitskill are friends. She imagines them getting together over drinks and trying to talk to each other in the way that they write, words flying out of their mouths.
Ms. Hen noticed that most of the protagonists in the stories were men and they were not kind to women. The women characters were either weak or nonexistent. Ms. Hen doesn’t like to read entire books in which all the women are sniveling idiots. She wants to read about at least one woman who has strength.
Ms. Hen liked this book, but she didn’t like it too much. She wished there was more backbone to the book. It made her confused. She likes to learn about other cultures, but this book just showed that the world can be a sick place. Ms. Hen wants to escape from sickness, and if you do, too, don’t read this book.