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BEHIND THE SCENES with Rick Moody


What inspired you to write a play for radio? Are you a fan of radio dramas from the past

Yeah, I love radio drama. I especially like the idea of radio drama as practiced by Beckett and W. C. Fields. Fields, for instance, had a period late in his career where radio was his favorite medium. He made movies from the silent era onward, much influenced by his experience in Vaudeville. They were very dependent on low physical comedy of the sort that was popular in Vaudeville. As he got older though, he was less gifted in physical comedy, and his alcoholism certainly got in the way. As a result, he moved into radio, a venue that made improvisation and puns very comfortable. To me, he was a truly literary comedian. The radio pieces were about using the medium, being spontaneous. And they were oriented toward the material of language, instead of being about much

While writing Alamo , did accounting for the sound elements in it make the process significantly different from writing a short story

I think in sound anyway. I play music, so sound is often uppermost in my mind. The significant difference in play writing, for me, was all the dialogue. Most of my fiction is not noteworthy in its plenitude of dialogue

Did you know what you wanted the play to basically sound like before it was produced

I didn't know exactly how I wanted it to sound, but I knew what kind of tone I wanted it to have. Which is how I work, generally, in whatever medium occupies me. I was in the good hands of an amazing sound designer, Bruce Odland, and he proved expert at getting the right mixture of menace and comedy, which was what I was after

Writing is a mostly solitary endeavor. What was it like to work with a cast of characters

Very pleasant. That has been part of the fun of radio pieces: getting out of my my solitary rut. I remember, for example, feeling sort of devastated when Alamo finally played on the radio, because it meant I wasn't going to get to go into the WNYC offices anymore

You've recorded several of your short stories for the radio, with musicians and artists playing along. How do you imagine the experience of hearing these versions of the stories differs from reading them

Well, I think literature really benefits from being performed. It makes the beauty of the language more apparent, and it makes an implied voice an actual instrument. I always feel like I understand literature better when I've heard it read aloud. For example, there's a recording of James Joyce reading some of Finnegans Wake . That's a very difficult book, but it sounds fabulous when Joyce reads from it

Do you think it's more intimate for a listener to hear these stories / your voice, than to read them on paper

I don't know if I'd say "intimate," since I think the bond between reader and writer is extremely intimate. It's like whispering in someone's ear. But hearing things aloud, as I've said above, makes the relationship more dynamic somehow

Do you find working with audio restrictive in any way, compared with writing

It's just a different set of requirements. I like requirements. I like assignments. I like working outside of the comfort zone a little bit. I like trying things. I like thinking differently. All of these inclinations make audio seem like rich area for experiment

You use italics in your writing, in very intentional, noticeable ways. What's the audio equivalent of italics? What do they sound like

They don't sound like the same thing all the time. They are meant to convey the possibility of second register in a narrative voice. When I read them aloud it usually sounds like a change in emphasis or tone. Sometimes I'm more emphatic, sometimes they just provide an opportunity to think more carefully about a certain morsel of meaning, a cliche or a bit of subliterary jargon.