While semi-famous literary critic Dale Peck would disagree (he led his review of The Black Veil with "Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation"), if you're going to criticize Rick Moody, calling him a "hack" probably isn't the way to go.
Still, if you're a Tucsonan, reading Moody's essay "reflect[ing]" on our city in Newsweek, it's a little difficult to understand what exactly he's trying to say. Oh, you saw a man playing banjo in the heat? People riding unicycles? Someone let you in on the secret of how we leave bodies in ravines, just for kicks? This guy has us pegged!
However, this is sort of Rick Moody's beat. I couldn't even try to describe the first section of his novel The Four Fingers of Death. It's oddly funny. It's definitely strange, but I wouldn't necessarily be able to tell you what it's "about". Moody is a style guy. He operates on a different plane than nearly every other writer out there. He spends quite a bit of time discussing different body fluids and zero gravity. I don't know why, but he does do it well.
I guess he's supposed to give the readers of Newsweek a sense of what Tucson is like, now that we're largely out of the unfortunate national spotlight brought on by Jared Loughner, and he does that in an artsy way, I guess, but it's a mistake to blame Moody for being Moody. Maybe it's a better question to wonder why they couldn't just find someone who lives here to talk about Tucson these days (and no, I don't mean me). Tina Brown probably found out Moody was coming to town and asked him to throw something together, and that's a spectacular idea on paper. It just might be a short sighted one. Moody mentions that we have great tacos still post-January 8th and paints a beautiful picture of the monsoon clouds rolling in, but he doesn't say really say anything, and that's a shame. Not because Moody isn't a great writer, but because someone else should have been given the opportunity to tell our city's story.