Rick Moody was at BookCourt last week to read from his latest novel, Hotels of North America. The novel creates a narrative through the online hotel reviews left by protagonist Reginald Edward Morse.
Reginald isn’t very good at most of his hobbies, Moody explains, describing the character. And that inaptitude seemingly comes through with hotel reviews that reveal a neurotic and obsessive personality.
Moody chose to write the novel as online reviews for several reasons. In part he was looking for a new novel form. But also it helped that it was written in short segments. He explains that his daughter, now a little more than six years old, prevented him from the 3-month-long writing binges he was accustomed to. He had to learn to write in shorter sessions since he often found himself with as little as 45 minutes at a time.
As the title might suggest, many of the sections of the novel were written in hotel rooms. He would get up at five in the morning in sit down in the bathtub to write.
Moody says one of the best places to write is in the subway. Usually, people don’t talk to him. Often Moody will take drafts with him on the subway to edit, although occasionally he will have a MacBook.
One conceit of the novel–a spoiler alert might be necessarily for some people–is that an afterword is written in the book from an author named Rick Moody. Moody explains that Rick is a fictional writer. That conceit came late in the life of the novel. The main thing he can say about this addition is “fiction is not real.” Writing in the style of Rick was also a challenge. He has a different style than Moody. “I like the language to do arabesques,” while Rick doesn’t.
Moody had started writing what he calls a normal book, a traditional, realistic novel. That was going nowhere. “This has nothing to do with how I see the world,” he said of that old manuscript. It was too much written for the publishing market he says.
He was in Bergen, Norway, traveling with his wife for business. They were staying in a hotel that was one of their worst experiences–below them was a rock club playing loud house music all night. His wife suggested reviewing the hotel online.
Before the hotel in Norway, Moody had never really be interested in online reviews. Suddenly, he found them fascinating. To write a novel straight is to use a form that hasn’t changed in a century, he says as a way of explaining his interest in pushing the definitions of novel narrative form.
He has quite a lot of experience in hotels. There was one hotel in Tulsa where his wife was asked if they planned to do drugs in the room.
“A hotel is best when it somehow exceeds my expectations,” he says.