Rick Moody Reading – The Four Fingers of Death
When and if I finally convince a significant other that my manly sperm is a viable partner for her exacting ova and we raise a couple of screaming brats, I’ll sit him or her down on my knee after distracting it to silence with promises of sweets long enough to tell it a life lesson: learn to love to read because your heroes will (mostly) be approachable. And not in the stalker way. Necessarily.
Then I’ll order up some future beer with which to get space-loaded and continue berating the child for all my life’s failures.
Gentleman Moody’s The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven was one of the 20 or so books I read during my second year of college, when I’d first decided that pretending to be a Serious Writer was a way to get attention, especially from ladies. I credit the best books of that great second year of college with kick-starting what amounts to my writing career.
Which is a synopsis of the truncated introduction I babbled to Moody while he signed my books, after he read from his new novel, The Four Fingers of Death. I recorded the whole thing, but some luddite gremlin crapped out and froze the camera, leaving me with the 5 seconds of test-recording I’d shot immediately prior to the reading.
Moody was buoyant, maybe because he lives right around the corner from an excellent, independent bookstore run mostly (only?) by women, Greenlight Books. It helps that they (the women) are lockstep attractive, seem to love books as much as I, and smile most the time I’m there, even when I come lugging a sack full of 1st edition books. Which I did.
The reading was great. Moody set up the passage by talking about his inspiration for the book, “The Crawling Hand,” a movie whose characters are harassed by the disembodied hand of a dead astronaut. I immediately remembered the similar, Oliver Stone-directed “The Hand” (starring Michael Caine!) who loses a hand in a car accident, but later finds it strangling people who’ve pissed him off in some way or another. While I can’t remember which passage Moody read, I do remember feeling like I’d been dropped into the lyrical version of a hot toddy laced with benzodiazapenes and humor. It was mellow, pleasant, and I felt distinctly happier as the reading progressed. Everyone clapped, we asked a few questions, and finally we all lined up to have our books signed.
Unfortunately, you can’t bring more than two books to a reading these days without being pegged as a Speculator. I mean, I can understand that people need to make money. Sure. But they’ve ruined it for all of us regular book collectors. Before he’d finished signing for the woman immediately in front of me, he cocked an eyebrow at my pile and said, that’s a lot of books.
I panicked and realized he’d sized me up for a jerk. Or a prospector. I babbled about how the last time I saw him was Le Poisson Rouge with Jonathan Ames for “John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders,” but he grunted and mostly ignored my anecdote. He didn’t ask to whom he should sign the books, he’d assumed I was a Prospector, and Prospectors never want any personalization. I think what (temporarily, thankfully) cemented the “dickhead Prospector” label was my first edition of Garden State. He said, I don’t sign that book any more.
Furthermore: I don’t sign that book anymore because it’s crap, and people started coming to readings carrying 12 copies of it.
He insulted his own work, then blamed it on the prospectors. TO WHICH HE MEANT ME!
A quick aside: Prospectors want authors to sign their books without any personalization, the idea being that people who buy second-hand signed books don’t want their friends knowing they’d bought them online from some anonymous guy on the internet. They (the second-hand buyers) would prefer that everyone believe they’d met Rick Moody or whomever themselves. So the standard request given to authors who’re signing for prospectors is: signature only, thanks. If they’re feeling ballsy, they’ll request the date and location.
I sputtered and spit and asked Mr. Moody to sign my books to me. Maybe that warmed him up a little. Then, I set in on the abridged introduction to my insult-project, how I’m asking my favorite authors to insult me in their inscriptions, etc. Thankfully, he laughed and agreed, asked if he was supposed to put an insult in each book. While of course this would be optimal, I didn’t think it’d be fair to him or the other folk in line.
We were wrapping things up. He asked me to sign his book for him — he brings a copy of his book to readings for the attendees to sign — then he snatched the copy of Garden State, wrote in it, and said,
I’m signing this. But I’ll know if you ever sell it because I wrote MOTHERFUCKER across the top.
Rick Moody is the motherfucking man. I won’t be selling it, but I don’t think the author would see my adding it to the Insulted by Authors picture archive for posterity as violating that trust.