‘Boys’ by Rick Moody

Boys by Rick Moody, 2000

The magic trick:

Repeating a key phrase throughout the story as a means of transition across large spans of time

Boys enter the house. That’s the key phrase here. Moody builds the story of twin brothers around this phrase – repeated over and over. As such, the structure is a bit like poem. And as such, the repetition grated on my nerves, each time back around feeling even more self-satisfied than the last. (But maybe that’s just me.)

It’s an effective way to blast through decades of biography without bothering with lengthy segues. Each “Boys enter the house” serves as a kind of establishing shot for the next scene, and, as a result, we get entire lifetimes in less than 10 pages of text. And that’s quite a trick on Moody’s part.

The selection:

Boys enter the house and kiss their mother, who feels differently now they have outgrown her. Boys enter the house, kiss their mother, she explains the seriousness of their sister’s difficulty, her diagnosis. Boys enter the house, having attempted to locate the spot in their yard where the dolls were buried, eight or nine years prior, without success; they go to their sister’s room, sit by her bed. Boys enter the house and tell their completely bald sister jokes about baldness. Boys hold either hand of their sister, laying aside differences, having trudged grimly into the house. Boys skip school, enter house, hold vigil. Boys enter the house after their parents have both gone off to work, sit with their sister and with their sister’s nurse. Boys enter the house carrying cases of beer. Boys enter the house, very worried now, didn’t know more worry was possible.

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