Review of My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Not much left to be said about this brilliant book. 

It was brilliant and disturbing and a perfect reading experience. Another first person narrative by this famous author plumbing the depths of human loneliness, wish fulfillment and modern society. A magnificent satire and unputdownable headlong plunge into the heart of all that is wrong with the modern world, condensed and epitomized by a few characters who are laugh out loud funny and haunting at the same time.

Better than Bret Easton Ellis and at least as good as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Review of Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

My ranking of Ottessa Moshfegh’s books.

1. My Year of Rest and Relaxation
2. Homesick for Another World
3. Lapvona
4. Eileen
5. McGlue
6. Death in Her Hands

Lapvona was midrange Moshfegh, in my opinion. It lacked the intimate first person perspective of her other works and possessed a cold, alien tone, making use of uncommon sentence rhythm, like the final story in her collection Homesick for Another World where two children interact in horrifying and malicious ways. She captures a palpable discontent throughout her body of work, but her suggestions about humanity’s past and future are unsettling, more clearly in Lapvona, with its aura of crushed innocence and ceaseless desensitization. It relies heavily on edgy subject matter without the simpering edginess of much modern fiction. Her language radiates from the setting and characters as naturally as that of classic authors like William S. Burroughs. Her voice is supple, but recognizable, even in this historical disguise.

I would prefer a return to a tighter focus and closer perspective in her next work, since she excels at these qualities, and when she pares her writing down to the essentials and takes us on a deep dive down the icebergs of human depravity, she is able to plumb relatable interior worlds with exquisite candor, as in her masterpiece MYORAR. Lapvona is a densely populated, frenetic nightmare.

Review of Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Why do people read literary fiction?

I ask myself this whenever I try to define the difficult term “literary fiction.” I think of Philip Roth and John Updike most readily. I see that Moshfegh manages to impress literary readers while also capturing a large audience, ie, being a bestseller. But unlike Roth or Updike, I feel like her work is more fluid, less samey.
This is the first thing of hers I’ve read, and it was standard 1st person literary fiction. Nothing that hadn’t been done before. It was a tad more intimate (grosser) than average, and had a quick pace and compelling voice. Contrasted with my recent read of Liar, Dreamer, Thief, I much prefer this book, which did not talk down to its reader. The titular main character was more realistic in my opinion.

I return to and rephrase the question: Why do we like to read about miserable people who sadly shuffle through meaningless existences? Franzen and others help us tackle this difficult quandary in countless iterations of men and women cheating on one another and making fools of themselves in public. The sub-genre of this also mix in race relations and historical atrocities, just to add fuel to the fire of suffering and distinctly human cruelty.

Moshfegh came off as genuine in her portrayal of a sloppy woman, living messily, in a messed-up world. Alcoholic fathers and dying mothers have become cliches, but what works best amid the unremitting bleakness of the setting is the strong voice. It is not concise or overly elegant, but it does its job of carrying the reader through the typical scenarios with verve. We live vicariously through characters like this.

I appreciated the frank and telling depiction of life’s gruesome hardships and felt the struggle of a woman trying and failing to make something of a depressing life. It had its highs and lows, but I can recommend the book to anyone with a strong stomach and a pulse. It rises above the trillion other hard-luck stories out there and indicates a talent ready to operate within and outside the norm.