cover image The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven: A Novella and Stories

The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven: A Novella and Stories

Rick Moody. Little Brown and Company, $21.95 (241pp) ISBN 978-0-316-57929-2

The author of two much-admired novels of suburban anomie here delivers 10 ingenious but uneven stories with a wide range of subjects, styles and voices. Shaped as treatments, sketches and journal entries as well as traditional short stories, these literate, sharply delineated, darkly funny but occasionally contrived pieces explore the vicissitudes of life in New York City and its suburbs. Moody's (The Ice Storm) most compelling characters are desolate or wrongheaded losers, like the narrator of ``Preliminary Notes,'' a manic insurance investigator whose attempts to record his wife's phone calls reveal that their marriage is about to collapse. ``The Apocalypse Commentary of Bob Paisner,'' a hilarious variation on Pale Fire, is a story in the form of a term paper by a collegiate misfit obsessed with connections between his life and the Book of Revelations. In ``Pip Adrift,'' the deranged African American cabin boy in Moby-Dick recounts falling overboard; ``Primary Sources'' is Moody's autobiography framed as a bibliography with footnotes. The title piece, a novella, is a gritty, lyrical but dispassionate portrait of young people whose lives intersect and bottom out in a dystopian New York of heroin dens and sex clubs. An affecting but noncohesive collection that, despite flashes of brilliance, sometimes strains for effect. (Aug.)