BOOK REVIEW / Wife-swapping on a mustard rug: The ice storm - Rick Moody: Abacus, pounds 8.99
Saturday 23 July 1994
The story concerns a family, the Hoods, in New Canaan, New England. All of them are childish, all find sex a locus for deep humiliation; all are lonely. The son, Paul, away at school, belongs to a 'confraternity of burnouts,'; the daughter, Wendy, is considered a pervert by her friends, and wishes she deserved the name; the mother, Elena, finds everything an effort - for her even being lied to is 'such work'; but above all it is the father, Benjamin, who has a self-indulgently sinking heart. He confronts himself in a mirror one evening, waiting for his mistress: 'His hair was going. He'd worn it short all his life - he'd never seen it really - and now it was gone.' The shift here, from 'going' to 'gone,' is typical of the deft way in which Moody exposes each character's weaknesses.
Any family can get depressed, but this is 1973, and the Summer of Love has, 'migrated, in its drug-resistant strain, to the Connecticut suburbs about five years after its initial introduction'. The Hood children are on the loose attempting pitiful seductions, while their parents, in an atmosphere of extreme marital disharmony, find themselves at their first ever wife-swapping party.
Here the plot grows increasingly twisted and compelling; an ice storm bursts overhead, and various members of the family are stranded in the wrong bed, on the wrong lavatory floor, or across the wrong train seat. As the Hoods shame themselves and disintegrate we almost wish their customary level of social ineptitude, otherwise nearly intolerable, could have seen them through the night as well as the day.
The reader sticks with this misery, driven by a desire to know whether the characters will break down completely, or somehow break out of their unwholesome world. In the end, however, only the author himself comes across as having sufficient humanity for a broad point of view. Intermittently, and interestingly, Moody raises the question of the place of the narrator in this tale, both declaring him to be one of the characters, now reminiscing, and admitting that there is, let's face it, a novelist at work here. Contrary to what one might expect, these interludes are refreshing, particularly the passage where he formally introduces violent senselessness as the contribution of nature to the plot.
In short, The Ice Storm is in many ways a truly dismal read, but Moody's high humour and certain touch make dismal about as enticing as it's ever going to be.
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
- 4 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
- 5 Google search history can now be downloaded in its entirety, mass embarrassment expected
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron 'after credits' scene leaks online days before cinema release
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments