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By Dubi on 02-01-14
A Stark and Dormy Night
What made the experience of listening to The Ice Storm the most enjoyable?
Some things work in audio, some don't. The Ice Storm works. Well. The narrative voice, mostly paraphrasing what its characters are saying and thinking rather than quoting them directly via dialogue, makes it quite a good listen. I had originally tried reading the book in print about a year ago, had difficulty getting into it, and when (just 30-40 pages in) lost it, I didn't rush out to replace it. But when I got a chance to listen to it, I thought it might just be a better listen than a read, and that proved to be true.
That the narration is good helps, of course, but what I'm really referring to is the author's narrative voice, especially as he shifts his perspective among the four Hood family members and occasionally throws in his own personal musings.
Who was your favorite character and why?
My favorite character in The Ice Storm is 1973. Not to sound smarmy about it, but all of the human characters are not exactly charismatic, not likeable in any sense. They are interesting but they are highly damaged and dysfunctional. But the setting is as much a character as the characters who people that setting -- New Canaan, Connecticut, on Thanksgiving, 1973.
One could have chosen New Canaan as one's favorite character, since the tony suburban setting is crucial to where the characters are at the start of the book and where they end up after the events of the day (and night). But I choose the time rather than the place -- 1973. If America "lost its innocence" in the wake of the Kennedy assassination in 1963, a decade later, in the wake of Nixon's Watergate scandal and the arrival of the sexual revolution in a buttoned up suburb, America's jaded and browbeaten heart and soul had completely frozen over.
I had just started college in the fall of 1973 and was stunned by a presidency that killed itself off with hubris, a world that began its long slow burn with the oil embargo that followed the Yom Kippur War, a crime-ridden city (New York) that was on the verge of bankruptcy (both literal and metaphorical), and a culture that was in the last stages of perverting the utopian social ideals of the 60s into the dissolute self-absorption of the "Me Decade".So I remember it well. Too well. Not very fondly. Rick Moody uses that moment in American social, cultural and political history, lashed both literally and metaphorically by a deadly ice storm, to recount the demise of the American family, both literally and metaphorically.
Which scene was your favorite?
My favorite passages in the Ice Storm were the ones where the narrator steps away from the point of view of a particular character and riffs on a particular cultural element of the era -- politics, style, music, TV, comic books, religion, et.al. Had the book been written contemporaneously with its era, these references would surely feel dated. But looking back two decades, during its writing in the early 90s, the commentary benefits from hindsight, from treating its material more as historical or cultural artifacts, as sociology.
Although I am more interested, personally, in pop culture, both of that era and others before and since -- music, TV, fashion, comics, etc. -- the passage I liked best was the send-up and tear-down of 70s-style new age spirituality, the fads I could never understand at the time and no one understands in retrospect, with EST getting the most of Moody's narrator's attention.
If you could take any character from The Ice Storm out to dinner, who would it be and why?
No one is sympathetic enough to truly qualify, but Paul would be the one I would choose if I had to, especially if I could go to dinner with him today, when we're both in our late 50s, and compare notes about our late teens in 1973. Sharing his age and his gender, and therefore much of his teen angst, it would be an interesting discussion. I guess what this really means is that the person associated with The Ice Storm that I'd really like to take out to dinner is author Rick Moody, since Paul is almost surely his alter-ego, the autobiographical portion of the proceedings.
Any additional comments?
Then there is the movie. Director Ang Lee is highly acclaimed these days for blockbuster productions like Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, but before embarking on that phase of his career, he made a handful of smaller, family-oriented films, of which The Ice Storm was the last. It is my fond memory of that movie that made me want to read the source novel in the first place. The book has a different feel, made up so much more of interior monologue, where the movie is distinctly visual in style. But both are excellent in their own media -- if you like it (my wife didn't like the movie, hated it in fact, and therefore has zero interest whatsoever in reading or listening to the book).
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Thomas More on 06-08-18
Excellent, interesting novel!
I've had this one on my to-read list for over five years - the story of a single New England night in 1973 in which an ice storm descends and changes the lives of a group of mixed-up humans doing their best to make a go of it. Now just to be clear - it isn't all about the storm. The storm just comes along and weaves its way through the plot. Think, perhaps, of the rain of frogs in Magnolia, as a comparison. I didn't make a firm count, but I think we spend time with roughly six characters during the novel, whom Moody presents to us cloaked in a wise omniscient narrative voice. With this narration, I was reminded of Ann Patchett's Commonwealth, and also, strangely, of George Elliot's books - she was a big proponent of that "eye of God" looking bemusedly over her characters. The Ice Storm finds some middle ground between humor and drama, which is, I think, where most of life takes place. I enjoyed the story a good bit - liked the tapestry of characters, the messiness of their lives and their desires. There's a great deal of sexual activity and sexual thinking - much of it quite unique and interesting. Wendy was my favorite character - as complex a young woman as I've ever run across in literature. You never hear about this book being mentioned as anything special - like "classic" special, and I'm really not sure why - what it is about the writing that holds it back from packing more power or staying with us as readers - and I guess I come back to that narrative voice, which is the heart of the prose, but conversely, holds it back in some way from conveying the emotion of the characters more potently. Or perhaps too many cultural references? I don't know - we Americans are pretty culture-obsessed, so I couldn't tell after a while. All that being said, there are some brilliant passages that I wish I could share a few of here, but they involve a particular plot point that needs to remain hidden. RECOMMENDED.
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By Ms. S. Smith on 12-28-11
I bought this audiobook after recently watching the film on TV, hoping that the book would be better than its film adaptation, and I wasn't disappointed. This is one of the best books I've downloaded for a long time. The narration is excellent and the atmosphere created in this tale of dysfunctional families, a misguided sexual revolution as well as the nuanced character studies are brilliant. I can really recommend this to anyone looking for a more unusual read and a glimpse in to the heart of moral darkness.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful