Author brings laughter and advice to Hamline

Hamline’s Creative Writing Programs bring renowned writer Rick Moody to campus for a reading and an interview.


Paul Patane

Rick Moody came to Hamline from Feb. 23 through Feb. 25 for a public reading and interview. He also worked with fiction writers in the Creative Writing Programs.

Justin Christensen, Senior Reporter

With biting humor, a deep film-trailer voice and articulate insights into the world of literature and writing, Rick Moody had the crowd buzzing during his visit to Hamline on Tuesday, Feb. 23 and Wednesday, Feb. 24. The reading on Tuesday night was generally filled with laughter, while the interview on Wednesday evening was half serious and half humorous. After both, the audience was eager to ask questions, and he answered them with a well-spoken, philosophical flair.

Moody has been immersed in literary events like this for almost 25 years now. Having written six novels, numerous short stories and several works of nonfiction, he clearly seemed to have a good understanding of what he was talking about. Moody also plays music, is a self-proclaimed life coach, writes for a music column and works as a creative writing professor at New York University.

All of this hasn’t stopped Moody from writing, however. He released his latest novel, “Hotels of North America” in Nov. 2015 and it has since received highly positive reviews from major publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. The novel is structured through hotel reviews written and posted online by a lonely, darkly humorous man named Reginald. Moody felt that this online component was something that he needed to touch on in his work.

“I felt like I wasn’t describing life as it’s actually lived; culture as it’s actually happening now, if I wasn’t incorporating the online stuff into my characters and their lives,” he said.

Mary Rockcastle, Director of Hamline’s Creative Writing Programs, suggested that this willingness to expand horizons was one of the reasons that they chose him to come visit.

“Whenever we are looking for a writer we try to get a writer who has a diverse range,” she said.

Rockcastle also believes that Moody, like past visiting writers, helps students to see that becoming successful through the arts is not impossible.

“You want your students to see themselves as writers and to claim their identity as writers; it’s not just a chosen few on the top of the mountain,” Rockcastle said. “We are real people writing, making art, and Rick Moody is a real person.”

Moody’s down-to-earth attitude was apparent as he willingly answered audience questions during the last half of both events. He also shared several interesting stories that the audience seemed to enjoy, such as his friendship with the late David Bowie.

“Can I just talk about David Bowie for a minute?” he asked at one point before explaining how David Bowie endorsed his novel “Purple America.”

This relationship with music seems to have a large effect on everything Moody works on. He is especially interested in the first generation of punk, music he grew up listening to.

“The impulses of punk—harnessing rage, making the music incredibly simple—those are all things I still believe in and feel passionately about,” he said.

Moody also seemed to be passionate about authors who have a comedic sensibility in their writing, such as Stanley Elkin and W.C. Fields. Although this sensibility is reflected in Moody’s own work, he also touches on the darker sides of human life. He was extremely open in sharing how to capture this true humanism in one’s own writing.

Courtney Baldrige (‘16), who was in attendance for the interview on Wednesday night, enjoyed this openness, as well as the humor that seemed to slip into many of his responses.

“He’s really funny,” Baldrige said. “He just says it how it is, and if it happens to be funny he lets it be funny. It never seemed like he was trying to be a joker.” Baldrige also enjoyed how Moody talked about pushing the boundaries and taking risks. “He had some good things to say especially about risk and not letting yourself be pigeonholed,” she said.

Minnesota has some of the top independent publishers in the United States, including Graywolf Press, Coffee House Press and Milkweed Editions, who are willing to publish this experimental and genre-defying literature. If a writer doesn’t want to feel trapped by conventions, Minnesota can be an ample place to be. However, Moody acknowledged that before anything, an author needs to put in the work.

“Just write. That’s it. You can’t rewrite the piece if you don’t have the draft,” he said.

For more information about Rick Moody, visit his author page at