Rick Moody. Little Brown and Company, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-316-58874-4
Sending wry, heartbroken characters across the slightly tilted landscapes of his fiction, Moody fosters a low-grade bemusement in the 13 stories collected here. ""The Mansion on the Hill,"" the first and perhaps the best, follows the adventures of narrator Andrew Wakefield as he tries to come to terms with his sister's death--she was killed in a car accident just before her wedding. Coincidentally finding himself employed at a ritzy wedding-planning business, Andrew alternates memories of the past with clunky product-speak descriptions of his job. The death of a sister is the theme of the title story, too, a tale Moody confesses at the end is hardly fictional at all, echoing in his fervent first-person declarations the nonfiction stylings of Dave Eggers. First published in McSweeney's, ""The Double Zero,"" another of Moody's stories, describes the humorous failure of a family ostrich ranch. In ""Carousel,"" an aging, low-level Hollywood actress muses on the metaphysics of the movie business and ends up stuck in the middle of a drive-by shooting while waiting at McDonald's to buy orange juice for her daughter (""So why are they here? According to what rationale? Do they even have juice at McDonald's?""). Moody's self-conscious prose strains for hyper-modern colloquial detachment, but too often misses its mark, clanging just off-key. (Jan. 25) Forecast: Fans of Moody's novels and previous short story collection (The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven, 1995) will rush to flip through this uneven volume. Whether they will stick around to buy or to read all the way through remains to be seen, but the planned 9-city author tour will help.
Reviewed on: 01/01/2001