Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Rick  Moody

Jena  Boyce 
Substance Abuse and the Artistic Process

The Theme of Loneliness in the Literary Works of Rick Moody

Over the past five hundred years, drug use has influenced the creativity of artists. From DaVinci’s The Mona Lisa, to Van Gogh’s Starry Night, or to something more contemporary, like Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans, art has offered a new vision and perspective on life. Some artists, however, chose to enhance their artistic ability; they received this “enhancement” from drugs, including alcohol. Some artists, musicians, and authors, including Van Gogh, Beethoven, and Jack Kerouac, used drugs to help them overcome their artistic “blocks.” Substances including opium, marijuana, LSD, and alcohol fueled artists’ creative processes. As a result of the drug use, artists created unique artwork. For example, the abundance of yellow in Van Gogh’s Starry Night, is a direct effect of the drugs that gave his vision a yellow tint. Drugs used by artists throughout history ranged from lesser-known drugs, such as digitalis and absinthe, to notorious drugs, such as methamphetamines and marijuana. Some believed these drugs stimulated the creativity of artists. Another example of the effects of drugs on art is Jack Kerouac’s novel, Big Sur, which describes his experiences with alcohol and its effects on his life. Although some artists believed that using drugs heightened the artistic experience, French poet Charles Baudelaire observed that the drugs that affected these artists were nothing but Paradise Artificiels or Artificial Paradises.

Rick Moody’s novels depict characters who live in an “artificial paradise.” Feeling the need to escape from reality they do so by binge eating, excessive drinking, and attempting suicide. The major reason that the characters feel the need to escape from reality is to deal with the fact that each of them has an incredible sense of loneliness. Paul Hood, a character from Moody’s The Ice Storm, has “been lonely in his wife’s arms, lonely in crowds, lonely in meetings, lonely throwing tennis balls for his dog.” (5-6). He is never able to extinguish this loneliness, and although he is physically not isolated, emotionally he is extremely secluded. All of Moody’s characters have felt the sting of loneliness, and all of them express different ways of dealing with it. In his novels, Moody reflects the different ways that people inadequately cope with loneliness. His stories warn his readers that unhealthy coping mechanisms don’t alleviate the pain of isolation; they only serve to worsen it.

Major Works Consulted:

Hilton, Frank. Baudelaire in Chains. London: Peterowen Publishers, 2004 .
Moody, Rick. The Diviners. Boston: Little, Brown, 2005.
---, The Ice Storm. Boston. Little, Brown, 2002.
Wolf, Paul L. MD. The Effects of Diseases, Drugs, and Chemicals on the Creativity and Productivity of Famous Sculptors, Classic Painters, Classic Music Composers, and Authors 24 June 2005 <> (01 February 2009).
Photo Credit: Moody, Rick. The Diviners. Boston.: Little, Brown, 2005