About the book: Rick Moody’s sophomore novel, following Garden State (1992), was published in 1994 and quickly became a modern classic. It stands alongside Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides as a chronicle of teenage eros in the ’70s, and also became perhaps the definitive fictional story about suburban sexual liberation among the adults of that era. Surprise, surprise: key parties couldn’t save your marriage.
The book holds up today not only because of its clever, tight plotting, but because Moody ties the period setting to the characters’ inner struggles. The Silent Generation adults are enticed by the Summer of Love philosophy that’s trickled down to their Winter of Resentment, while the kids struggle to find their own footing amid confused, quietly angry role models. It’s an unforgiving portrait of a time and a place, but Moody sees his characters so sympathetically that it doesn’t feel misanthropic.
About the audiobook: Narrator David DeSantos acquits himself well by honoring the material. His delivery is a little world-weary but largely straightforward, and he doesn’t make the kids sound stupid.
What’s for dinner? Leftovers. The novel unfolds over the Friday night following Thanksgiving 1972. It’s a refreshing choice by Moody: instead of anticipating the holiday with dread, the characters are discovered ironically unmoved by the festivities. At no point do we suspect that any of these disaffected New Canaanites experienced a sincere sense of gratitude for anything other than booze and comic books.
As the parties prepare to party, pathetically, one mom preps a reheated Me Decade feast.
She filled a saucepan from the tap, set it on the range, and immersed in it the brick of frozen peas. They were frozen into a small rectangular pool of yellow simulated butter. Then she exhumed the turkey carcass from its tomb in the fridge and set it on a cutting board. As dispassionately as any butcher, Elena aligned the hewn strips of turkey on each of the three plates. Turkey the day after was the most heartbreaking protein she could imagine.
Something to be thankful for: Ang Lee’s superb 1997 film adaptation, which rarifies the book’s tone and renders its setting as a pristine moral wasteland.
– Jay Gabler is listening his way through literature’s most notable Thanksgiving novels. He welcomes suggestions.