I’ve rarely seen a movie made from a book and then read the book afterwards. But, in the case of The Ice Storm, I’ve seen bits and pieces of the movie (Elijah Wood!) about a million times. As far as I remember, I’ve never seen it straight through, but have always been excited to find it in progress as I’ve been clicking through the channels. The 70s aesthetics, the look of the ice storm itself, the abject sadness of it: entrancing.
And–I mostly liked the book, too! Thank goodness–it would have been so disappointing to have hated it. What I thought was most successful was how willing Rick Moody was to go to the ugly side. These characters are ugly. Many of them are physically ugly, almost all of them think very ugly thoughts; many of them act on that ugliness, too. There is something satisfying about reading about the secret and the interior lives of denizens of our country’s most buttoned-up state, Connecticut. There are some shocking scenes of sexual confusion, depravity and disappointment involving both the middle-aged parents in the book and their teenage children–occasionally in combination. There was one particular item of lingerie that journeyed through the book accumulating ever more fluids and mortifications. I wanted to don rubber gloves, climb into the book and take it away. And burn it. I will say, though, that Moody was terribly successful here because about ten days after reading the book, I’m still viscerally grossed out. That’s powerful writing.
The point of view shifted from character to character throughout the book, or so I thought, until I realized that there actually was one over-arching narrator. For the majority of the book, I’d confused this narrator–who, it turns out, was a character in the book–with the authorial voice. I think that I was supposed to do that, too. The reveal did explain away some of the p.o.v. issues I had with certain sections that were both seemingly omniscient and yet also full of editorializing and judgement:
The bright hues of the sixties had vanished from contemporary interior design. Let me interrupt again briefly here. Where the wives of southern Connecticut in the past might have embraced–carefully, hesitantly–gaudy neons and Day-Glos, they had by 1973 settled into milder pastels and earth tones. (pg. 105)
But, it did also seem gimmicky. I did not totally understand what we gained with this structure.
For a book with so much sex in it, The Ice Storm is incredibly unsexy. It is full of alienation and sadness, and confirms that what we may think, in our least charitable moments, may be going on behind our neighbors’, or our family members’, doors, actually is. But there is some grace, I think, in the honesty and the ugliness.