Paperback reader

Demonology

Rick Moody <em>Faber, 304pp, £7.99</em>

ISBN 0571204589

Rick Moody - whose celebrated novel The Ice Storm, about suburban ennui during the time of the Watergate scandal, became a major Hollywood film - returns with Demonology, a collection of short stories exploring the nature of love, grief and language, set against the backdrop of modern America. Moody is an adept stylist, and these contemporary parables are animated by a range of narrative techniques, from epistolary monologue to single-sentence stories.

Such is the honesty of each story - a man coming to terms with the death of his sister; a couple debating the nature of commitment and sexuality - that one feels more like an observer than a reader. Moody's huge range of subjects can be overwhelming, and the stories often lose their clarity.

He is most engaging when defining his characters by their past, which they are never allowed to forget. The demons are of lost loves, friends and families, and of raw emotions seething beneath the surface of society. To Moody's credit, this book, for all its emotional charge, never becomes mawkish.