Praise for Moody Food
“Moody Food has the vibrancy of The Sun Also Rises, but instead of Pamplona, we have Toronto’s Yorkville in the 1960s. It’s a tale of idealism gone awry, of dreams going off the rails, of life catching up with those who live it at too rapid a pace. Robertson’s ability to catch the mood of the times is uncanny. Moody Food simply bursts with the life of the street.”
—London Free Press
—Globe and Mail
“Robertson’s skill in writing about music earns this book its place on this list. He doesn’t merely describe a song from the outside; he enters fully into the flow, recreating the experience for the reader with an often heart-breaking clarity. There are musical moments in Moody Food that are, quite literally, breathtaking.”
—The Vancouver Sun
—The National Post
“Riotous and tender, funny and sad, Moody Food is as good an elegy for the counterculture as we’ve seen. The question, ‘What if someone were to write a 60’s rock novel worthy of its subject’ need no longer be asked.”
—Books in Canada
Rock and Roll novels aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in Canadian literature, but after inhaling Ray Robertson’s Moody Food over the last week or so I’m beginning to wonder why. In fact, after finishing the last page of this roller-coaster ride of a book, I was struck by a rather odd conundrum: how on Earth could a novel like Whale Music by Paul Quarrington, a rock and roll novel that I found daft and obvious and missing a core sense of seriousness, go on to win a Governor General’s Award, while Moody Food, which is richer, funnier, more profound and better written, just sort of slipped off the charts without much notice? Call me crazy, but I think the critics really dropped the ball on that one.
This really should be the kind of novel a guy like me poo-poos, a novel ready to fall victim to cardboard characters, predictable plot twists and mewling nostalgia. But oh man, Robertson would have absolutely none of it. This guy writes within an insane sort of zest, a deep love for the freedom of a blank page, and with a dedicated attempt to renounce dullness with every sentence. The whole believability and forward momentum of Moody Food hinges on Bill’s voice and character, our sense of who he is both morally and personality-wise – and Robertson absolutely nails it. He is relentless in getting this story out and pointing to both the humour and the sadness contained within.
I shutter to think how much research and effort it would have taken Robertson to build this novel from the ground up and make it feel like a part of rock and roll history, but he has done so admirably. The moments of comedy in Moody Food are well-balanced with the moments of seriousness. And I don’t say this about many novels, but this one truly did linger with me long after I finished the last page. Bravo.
–Free Range Reading
Young Canadian novelist Robertson re-creates the funky atmosphere of 1960s Toronto in this homage to the short, drug-fueled life of musician Gram Parsons (here fictionalized as American southerner Thomas Graham). Yorkville bookstore employee Bill Henderson is instantly mesmerized by his first sighting of Graham, who is decked out in his customary flamboyant attire–“white cowboy boots and a red silk shirt, all topped off with a white jacket covered with a green sequined pot plant, a couple of sparkling acid cubes, and a pair of woman’s breasts.” Once Graham lays out his vision for melding country and rock, what he calls Interstellar North American Music, the ragtag band is born, with Bill’s bald, vegan girlfriend on bass and an alcoholic old-timer on a weeping pedal steel guitar. As they embark on a tour that takes them from dives to the legendary Whisky Club in L.A., Thomas and Bill become increasingly obsessed with their music and with hard drugs. Robertson builds in a sense of foreboding even as he offers a frequently hilarious take on a troubled musical visionary.
“…his characters are as engaging as they are vivid. The spell of his barroom yarn never lets up…Burning question: Will Ray Robertson and his book make the cover of Rolling Stone?”
—The Montreal Gazette
Novels about rock and roll bands usually fall in a great big heap when the writer tries to describe the music. I’m happy to be corrected on this one. Please drench me in the names of credible rock and roll novels. I can think of three. The Doubleman is one, Paul Quarrington’s Whale Music is another. The final and greatest of all is Ray Robertson’s 2002 novel, Moody Food.
– Architecture Boogie