At the center of The Omega Force, which opens RIGHT LIVELIHOODS, is a buffoonish former government official in rocky recovery. Dr. "Jamie" Van Deusen is determined to protect his habitat--its golf courses (and Bloody Marys), pizza places (and beers) from "dark complected" foreign nationals. His patriotism and wild imagination are mainly fueled by a fall off the wagon. The collection's second novella, K & K, concerns a lonely young office manager at an insurance agency, where the office suggestion box is yielding unpleasant messages that escalate to a scary pitch. Ellie Knight- Cameron's responses to these random diatribes illuminate the toll that a lack of self-awareness can take. The book ends with a cataclysmic vision of New York City, after the leveling of 50 square blocks of Manhattan. Four million have died. Albertine, the "street name for the buzz of a lifetime," is a mindaltering drug that sets The Albertine Notes in motion. Only Rick Moody could lead us to feel affection for the various misguided, earnestly striving characters in this alternately unsettling and warm trio of stories.
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Rick Moody is off on a frolic of his own with these three very distinct novellas, different in content, style and character, but unmistakably Moody-esque. As in The Diviners and The Ice Storm, he deals with alienation, finding it everywhere he looks.
In the first novella, The Omega Force, we follow Dr. Jamie Van Deusen, a feckless former government official, from the time that he wakes up, disheveled and hungover on a neighbor's porch, through a vague, non-specific time wherein he decides that he must save his WASPy enclave from the invasion of "dark-complected" persons bent on destroying the animals on Plum Island. His alienation from his surroundings, fueled by alcohol, causes wild surmises to overtake him, and his imagination is reinforced by his reading of a thriller-diller: The Omega Force: Code White. This story is very funny, made even funnier by the arch and stilted language of Jamie, his utterly outlandish utterances to everyone he meets and his choice of wardrobe.
The second novella, K&K, is narrated by Ellie Knight-Cameron, lonely, disaffected office manager of an insurance company. She suddenly begins to find strange notes in the suggestion box. They grow progressively more profane as she conducts a search for the perpetrator. No one in the office has any time for her; indeed, no one has ever had any time for her. The inevitable ending falls flat, but it couldn't have happened any other way.
The third, and best novella is The Albertine Notes. Set in a post-apocalyptic New York where four million people have been killed by a bomb, the narrator is Kevin Lee, who is a Chinese-American journalist. He is on the trail of a hot story, trying to find the Zero user of Albertine, the street name for "the buzz of a lifetime." Trouble is, it doesn't guarantee only good memories. The story has its own internal logic, folding back upon itself again and again. No such thing as straight narrative. It is hard to follow at first, but well worth the trip. Moody's bleak vision of our world is writ large in this tale, and written very well. --Valerie RyanAbout the Author:
RIGHT LIVELIHOODS is Rick Moody's eighth book. He has received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, the Addison Metcalf Award, the Paris Review's Aga Khan Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
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