We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, coming out July 10. To help pass the time, our booksellers are reading through her previous publications. Enjoy this special Ottessa Moshfegh edition of What We’re Reading This Week!
I usually struggle reading short story collections from cover to cover in one go. I always read short stories here and there between novels and restlessly flick through collections. This is not the case with Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2017 collection of short stories. I’ve torn feverishly through these tales of ne’er-do-wells on the fringes of society that are menacing, rollicking, and disturbingly relatable.
“You know me. I spent many hours wondering who might have been the recipient of Randy’s sexual misconduct.” And so we have Eileen, disheveled, unloved, perverted, miserable mess that she is as an invisible, virginal 24-year-old with no one but her alcoholic father to keep her company. As such, she is ripe for a life-demolishing gift sent from an unreal God to free her from the cold nothing of X-Ville — enter Rebecca. Moshfegh is so blissfully unafraid of the warped, cynical, gross depths to which a self-loathing mind can descend and she goes there with flair and humor. This book is both monstrously funny and totally heartbreaking, which, when mixed with a Hitchcockian plot and a girl full of the life-giving fire of desire, makes for one hell of a read.
The year before Eileen, Moshfegh published McGlue, a novella. A drunken 19th century murder mystery, McGlue tests our limits of empathy and compassion. What should we do with a drunken sailor indeed? Yet we eagerly go along for the ride: “Two men walked in speaking another language. It reminded me of a sad song. The old man in charge bleated out loudly, “Git ow!” Then a fat lady came out the back blowing a bugle. The old man scuttled her back away. I smelled cooking cabbage. The two men were gone. The kid slapped my face with a burny salve and pushed me softly up out of the chair. Johnson took a hat off of the pole and a bell clanged as we swung through the door. I had a new hat.” I could only wish there was so much going on when I go for a shave at the barber. There is not, so I do not shave.
I am on the final pages of what is already my favorite book of 2018 (so far): Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation. It follows one woman’s quest to “hibernate” for a year under the influence of a barrage of prescription medication in hopes of attaining freedom from her empty life. Popping Vicodin, Trazodone, Xanax, Ativan, Ambien, Seroquel, Lunesta (the list goes on and on and on) and other unpronounceable substances in dangerous doses, our narrator is enmeshed in a haze that blurs the real and imagined and brings her closer to the state of enlightenment she envisions for herself. As we plunge deeper into a hypnotic nightmare full of blackouts and lost time we come to understand the pain that lies hidden beneath our narrator’s rough exterior and ever nearer to the destructive ends she’ll go to get a bit of sleep. Moshfegh has me cringing and cackling at nearly every page and I can’t express right here how much I love this book. Dark. Hilarious. Addicting. If Oscar Wilde and Lewis Carroll collaborated on an account of the Buddha’s life, this would be it. Oh, how lucky we are to be living at the same time Ottessa Moshfegh is cranking out masterpieces like this one. My Year of Rest and Relaxation is available for pre-order here.