“I’ve got Halloween balls if anybody wants them,” Rick Moody called out from behind the microphone at Housing Works Café last night, dangling an orange mesh bag filled with chocolate. He was there to read from his new novel, The Diviners (a.k.a. “the one that had its cover fixed“), after giving props to his co-star, Julia (Carnivore Diet) Slavin, and a shout-out to “America’s greatest living short story writer,” Amy Hempel, who was sitting in one of the back rows. After the reading was over, and a few shy fans went up for chocolate, I asked Moody, given the criticism heaped upon the National Book Award committee he chaired last year for picking obscure books full of “precious writers’ program language,” what he thought of this year’s fiction nominees.
“I think it’s a good list,” he said. “I’m happy they have the [Christopher] Sorrentino and Bill Vollman on there. I think they did a great job and they’ll certainly create fewer controversies than we did.” And with that, he invited a patiently waiting fan to sign his reading copy of The Diviners. “You can sign, too, Mediabistro guy,” he beamed. Sure enough, other people’s signatures covered several of the book’s early pages, continuing on well into the text itself, so I found a bit of white space just above Curtis Sittenfeld’s autograph and left my mark.