Ottessa Moshfegh

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Surprised there isn't already a thread for her. I got her story collection Homesick for Another World when it came out in February and was totally floored. There's a story in the middle - I can't remember the title - about an older wealthy Manhattan couple that made me gasp, felt like a kick in the stomach. I read her 2015 novel Eileen a couple weeks ago and it was just as fantastic. She's my favorite contemporary American writer - pitch black sense of humor, clean & tight prose, and a pessimism/cynicism that's really refreshing in a sea of Pollyanna fiction. I got her 2014 novella McGlue last week and I can't wait to read it.

flappy bird, Friday, 7 July 2017 18:15 (two years ago) link

i really liked eileen, it was so grody

na (NA), Friday, 7 July 2017 20:37 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

fu flappy i wanted to start this thread

McGlue is one of the most genuinely /grisly/ things i've ever read. in a good way; easily the best writing about violence in american lit since Cormac McCarthy. also the best description of a hangover. and when the narrator [SPOILER] sticks his finger into his skull(!) *full body shudder* it's dark as fuck but also, as mcglue's memory fleshes it out, his relationship with Johnson is revealed to be really tender and sweet. and just line by line, hilarious and wicked sharp writing (i love what rivka galchen--who nominated mcglue for a fancy prize that afaict launched her career--is quoted as saying on the back cover blurb of mcglue about "the mouthfeel of language"; sometimes you can read his slur straight off the page) one random example i remember is mcglue describing himself as "peddling my legs around Salem like a wind-up doll looking for a glass teat to suck" cracked me up

i'm about half way through Eileen as the moment and it's really good but the plot is just about to kick off and it took a while to set up. all i can say for now is: she is so good at exploring the interior life of her characters, and the scene where [SPOILER] Eileen describes pooping after eating laxatives was hysterical. Eileen is kinda a Daria-ish misanthrope stuck in a hyperbolically drab and pathetic life

i've got the short story collection on order at the campus bookshop

flopson, Tuesday, 22 August 2017 06:01 (two years ago) link

I bought the stories collection some months back - it really resonated with me but I need to re-read it in a different mood at some point to see how I feel. Bleak as fuck.

The Harsh Tutelage of Michael McDonald (Raymond Cummings), Thursday, 24 August 2017 23:20 (two years ago) link

"Slumming" (is that the title? my copy is packed away now) in particular just rattled me.

The Harsh Tutelage of Michael McDonald (Raymond Cummings), Thursday, 24 August 2017 23:22 (two years ago) link

three months pass...

new short story in the new yorker: Pictures of the Dead

flappy bird, Thursday, 30 November 2017 06:14 (two years ago) link

just got the stories collections, so goddamn good~

johnny crunch, Saturday, 9 December 2017 19:52 (two years ago) link

same! its cracking me up

flopson, Saturday, 9 December 2017 20:49 (two years ago) link

Wish i liked her more: eileen just seemed like highsmith or jackson done not as well

Her book coming next yr looks promising, though.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Sunday, 10 December 2017 09:13 (two years ago) link

eileen is the weakest of the three but still great imo. the stories are blowing my mind

she gives a bracing interview, really loved this one:

this, on the origin of mcglue, is illuminating:

McGlue is set in 1851. It was inspired by a brief article in a New England periodical from that year. I have lost the article by now, but the moment I read it, McGlue’s character emerged in full form. It was one long run-on sentence, as I recall, and read something like: “McGLUE. Salem. Mr. McGlue the sailor has been acquitted on the count of murder which he was found guilty of committing in the port of Zanzibar by reason of his being out of his mind since having hit his head when he fell from a train several months prior and because he was in a blacked out state of drunkenness at the time he stabbed a man to death.” There was the whole book right there: the character, the plot, the deformed language. I felt like I’d struck gold. I’d grown up in New England and could relate to McGlue’s self-destructive rebellion in the face of all that Puritanical cold. Once I started working on the book, I could hear him rambling around in my brain, impatient and wild. I spent my writing-energy trying to squeeze that chaos down into prose. Most of the book came out of me that way—painfully, as if possessed. It was important that I not think too hard about what I was writing down.

flopson, Monday, 11 December 2017 01:20 (two years ago) link

The novel I’m writing now is all about Whoopi Goldberg and Ambien.

johnny crunch, Monday, 11 December 2017 13:41 (two years ago) link


flappy bird, Monday, 11 December 2017 17:56 (two years ago) link

four weeks pass...

i'm about half way through Eileen as the moment and it's really good but the plot is just about to kick off and it took a while to set up.

i'm 75 pages in & getting kinda impatient :(

just sayin, Monday, 8 January 2018 05:46 (two years ago) link

It does not really improve, just gets sillier

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Monday, 8 January 2018 09:59 (two years ago) link

What a coincidence: she wrote the introduction to a new selected edition of Shirley Jackson stories I checked out of the library.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 8 January 2018 13:07 (two years ago) link

oh man Eileen is so good. keep going! and yea i preordered that Shirley Jackson collection just for Ottessa's intro, still have to actually read the book beyond her intro

flappy bird, Monday, 8 January 2018 18:02 (two years ago) link

so she's writing a novel about oprah and ambien? love it

flappy bird, Monday, 8 January 2018 18:02 (two years ago) link

Shirley Jackson is sooooooooooooooo much better than Moshfegh

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Monday, 8 January 2018 23:58 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

new novel!

My Year of Rest and Relaxation - July 10, 2018

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate – dangling its legs over the ledge of 9/11 – this novel is a showcase for the gifts of one of America’s major young writers working at the height of her powers.

flappy bird, Sunday, 18 February 2018 03:30 (two years ago) link

holy shit that sounds/looks good

johnny crunch, Sunday, 18 February 2018 03:36 (two years ago) link

i started reading mcglue, gnarly

johnny crunch, Sunday, 18 February 2018 03:36 (two years ago) link


flopson, Sunday, 18 February 2018 03:37 (two years ago) link

xp me too! halfway thru

flappy bird, Sunday, 18 February 2018 03:37 (two years ago) link

EILEEN disappointed me a few weeks ago. I'm still curious about this one.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 18 February 2018 15:05 (two years ago) link

Really enjoying the beginning of EILEEN but can imagine that it might go awry

Prometheus Freed's Rock and Roll Pâté (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 18 February 2018 15:25 (two years ago) link

I just finished Eileen & was very satisfied w it ftr

scrüt (wins), Sunday, 18 February 2018 15:27 (two years ago) link

Interesting to read that ppl were waiting for the plot to get going, I absolutely wasn't - just didn't seem like that sort of story, even with the "I should tell you again about the gun" stuff. When something did happen it was more consequential than I was expecting tbh - don't want to get too spoilery so will leave it there.

scrüt (wins), Sunday, 18 February 2018 15:30 (two years ago) link

I thought Christian Bale was laughably awful in American Psycho but later I read an interview where he explained he was doing a Tom Cruise impression the entire time, and there's definitely a similar thing going on in Eileen where the author is deliberately writing in a way that might seem simply laughably bad if you're not in on the joke.

Philip Nunez, Sunday, 18 February 2018 15:40 (two years ago) link

Interesting to read that ppl were waiting for the plot to get going, I absolutely wasn't - just didn't seem like that sort of story, even with the "I should tell you again about the gun" stuff. When something did happen it was more consequential than I was expecting tbh - don't want to get too spoilery so will leave it there.

― scrüt (wins),

My problem was too much plot! It read like an attenuated short story, extended beyond its scope.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 18 February 2018 15:50 (two years ago) link

at least the cover's good

||||||||, Sunday, 18 February 2018 16:01 (two years ago) link

I get that tbf, I was thinking similar things (but with a more positive slant, like man I really wanna read her short stories cause that seems like the form she'd excel in) - but I don't really mind it. It's a pretty short novel so it feels like a short story where you just spend a little bit longer in the world. I also felt that there was a point to the structure in that Day 2 already feels like it should be the day of her disappearance, Eileen's situation feels unbearable and untenable, so the slow progress through several days of cringe-comedy setpieces was effective for me.

scrüt (wins), Sunday, 18 February 2018 16:06 (two years ago) link


scrüt (wins), Sunday, 18 February 2018 16:06 (two years ago) link

I should go back to eileen, I think, though I heard real mixed reviews. I got to the end of the first chapter, thought 'you should have started the story here' and have not gone back to it since

||||||||, Sunday, 18 February 2018 16:19 (two years ago) link

i don't think Eileen is as flawed as others do, but imo whatever problems it has are with mechanics or plot (if you read the interviews i posted upthread, Moshfegh repeatedly admits she 'sold out' to her og literary audience by making it so conventionally plotted, while i felt the plot dragged) while the writing line-by-line or paragraph-by-paragraph, is incredibly high quality. <tmi/slight spoiler> the scene where eileen describes her bowel movements was one of the funniest things i've read, but also an example of Perfect Writing imo

flopson, Monday, 19 February 2018 00:19 (two years ago) link

Totally mystified by all the Eileen criticisms itt. McGlue was the one that felt like an overextended short story. flopson otm about that particular scene, though iirc constipation is a recurring theme throughout the book, and I just remember reading it and seeing that house so vividly and feeling how cluttered and trapped she was. Never thought once that it was overextended or too conventional, it was a very weird, dark, and satisfying novel. I do prefer Homesick for Another World though.

flappy bird, Monday, 19 February 2018 00:46 (two years ago) link

four months pass...

new moshfegh alert! drudge sirens!

The narrator of Ottessa Moshfegh’s new novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a 24-year-old New Yorker, wants to shut the world out — by sedating herself into a near-constant slumber made possible by a cornucopia of prescription drugs. In various states of semi-consciousness, she begins “Sleepwalking, sleeptalking, sleep-online-chatting, sleepeating… sleepshopping on the computer and sleepordered Chinese delivery. I’d sleepsmoked. I’d sleeptexted and sleeptelephoned.” Her daily life revolves around sleeping as much as possible, and when she’s not sleeping, she’s pretty much obsessed with strategizing how to knock herself out for even longer the next time, constantly counting out her supply of pills.

na (NA), Thursday, 5 July 2018 15:29 (one year ago) link

oh there's already an update on that up there. sorry.

na (NA), Thursday, 5 July 2018 15:33 (one year ago) link

yea im excited for this

johnny crunch, Thursday, 5 July 2018 15:41 (one year ago) link

preordered way back in February

Looks like this is the Ambien and Oprah novel

flappy bird, Thursday, 5 July 2018 16:04 (one year ago) link

I think the thing that I have in common with this character is that I am acutely aware of how much I do not like my own mind. When I’m not distracted by my imagination or by something external, time passing feels like I’m just waiting for the time to pass until I die. It’s kind of like vigilant awareness of mortality and mindfulness.


flopson, Thursday, 5 July 2018 16:54 (one year ago) link

Moshfegh once told Vice, which published some of her early work, “My writing lets people scrape up against their own depravity, but at the same time it’s very refined . . . it’s like seeing Kate Moss take a shit.”

johnny crunch, Friday, 6 July 2018 19:12 (one year ago) link

lmao. love her

flopson, Friday, 6 July 2018 19:27 (one year ago) link

Yeah, will be buying this next week.

The Harsh Tutelage of Michael McDonald (Raymond Cummings), Saturday, 7 July 2018 18:21 (one year ago) link

When I’m not distracted by my imagination or by something external, time passing feels like I’m just waiting for the time to pass until I die.

This is an ego problem, not a mind problem.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 7 July 2018 18:25 (one year ago) link

Get one mustard seed, why dontcha

Pwn Goal Picnic (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 7 July 2018 18:57 (one year ago) link

new book is great so far, pretty early on tho

flappy bird, Wednesday, 11 July 2018 15:59 (one year ago) link

yea im maybe 60 pgs in

i mean this in a value neutral way but it reads like fight club sorta idk
getting away from toxic femininity and social climbing by sleeping
rather than getting away from toxic consumerism by fighting

johnny crunch, Wednesday, 11 July 2018 20:42 (one year ago) link

Dwight Garner says that she writes with "so much misanthropic aplomb, however, that she is always a deep pleasure to read."

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 11 July 2018 20:58 (one year ago) link


johnny crunch, Wednesday, 11 July 2018 22:51 (one year ago) link

the sort of sub-lanchesterian satire-adjacent archness of it

gray say nah to me (wins), Thursday, 24 January 2019 21:32 (one year ago) link

Take it to the JL thread

calstars, Thursday, 24 January 2019 23:02 (one year ago) link

Read “A Dark and Winding Road” from the short stories and hated it, but "sub-Lanchester" is a bit of a low blow.

Maybe I picked the wrong story? It felt very I WILL SHOCK YOU, like the annoying over-talkative person at a party

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 25 January 2019 00:29 (one year ago) link

I don’t mean to sound down on her, she’s brought me a good deal of pleasure. Still reading the short stories but will definitely go on to Eileen and Year. It’s just the endings...dark and winding is a good example of how she tries to up-end / shock the reader. Or “the beach boy” which isn’t very interesting to start with and just kind of putters to a stall. I know short stories are hard to end well - it takes a good measure of poetry. Maybe I’m being too hard on her.

calstars, Friday, 25 January 2019 00:38 (one year ago) link

Stories okay but at least we had Nirvana

FernandoHierro, Friday, 25 January 2019 00:39 (one year ago) link

(if the end of the short story is shit then it is a fail, I liked her collection a lot but also feel many great writers finish stories well)

FernandoHierro, Friday, 25 January 2019 00:42 (one year ago) link

What's considered a good ending though, especially when it's not particularly plot oriented?

Philip Nunez, Friday, 25 January 2019 01:03 (one year ago) link

I'm rereading Flannery O'Connoor, and, boy, she could end'em, sometimes at the risk of being reductive.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 25 January 2019 01:04 (one year ago) link

she sold her hair to buy him a watch chain - but he sold his watch to buy her a set of combs

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Friday, 25 January 2019 01:11 (one year ago) link

I'm only answering this because I just read it, but Robert Aickman's short story "The Inner Room" has a *great* ending

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 25 January 2019 01:19 (one year ago) link

the extent of the american annoyance at comparing a bad book of yours to one of ours is half amusing and half dispiriting

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Friday, 25 January 2019 02:33 (one year ago) link

and i haven’t read the others. mcglue sounds .. more amenable? .. and certainly it is possible for writers of talent to produce bad books so i might give her another go. but this one just seems a spectacular series of own goals and self-owns

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Friday, 25 January 2019 02:39 (one year ago) link

McGlue is her worst one imo, Homesick & Eileen are the gems

flappy bird, Friday, 25 January 2019 04:22 (one year ago) link

Eileen is at best OK, but why read it when you have the complete works of Patricia Highsmith doing it all so, so much better

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 25 January 2019 04:24 (one year ago) link

I think the really great short stories are so much about character that maybe they've gone deep enough along the way to earn a fairly simple ending. tbf I don't remember thinking the Mosfegh stories ended badly, though I'd have to reread. I did think one or two, particularly the final story in the collection, were really poor. But I think that's common with short story collections, it is rare for every story in a collection to be brilliant and they do tend to frontload them. I've read collections where the last two or three were so bad it almost ruined a brilliant beginning.

I think it's Flannery O'Connor's Good Country People about which she said something to the effect of not knowing the end until the second she wrote it, and then realising it couldn't end any other way. Even that feels a bit too focussed on the importance of plot to me but I still like the quote, and all her writing about writing.

FernandoHierro, Friday, 25 January 2019 08:02 (one year ago) link

saying she’s a bad writer is crazy to me

flopson, Friday, 25 January 2019 22:10 (one year ago) link

O'Connor's remarks about endings have been myblodesrsrs foryears

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 25 January 2019 22:17 (one year ago) link

Uh lodestars

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 25 January 2019 22:17 (one year ago) link

this book makes me want to reread tao lin and a.m. homes and bits of lydia davis

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Saturday, 26 January 2019 04:00 (one year ago) link

although now there’s a random mention of mao II and i am going, oh, yes, of course

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Saturday, 26 January 2019 08:21 (one year ago) link

Ok I’ve got an example: the story Nothing Ever Happens Here. Last paragraph tries to put a spin on the events to that point but it’s not necessary. Why kill the mystery? The story should have ended with the old lady touching the dude’s face. Maybe OM just needs an editor.

calstars, Saturday, 26 January 2019 14:14 (one year ago) link

eileen was chronic

||||||||, Saturday, 26 January 2019 20:42 (one year ago) link

is patricia highsmith really as raunchy and grotesque as Eileen, james?

flopson, Saturday, 26 January 2019 22:09 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

Not content to EGOT, Whoopi Goldberg is setting her sights on the fashion industry. Novelist Ottessa Moshfegh, her biggest fan, pays her a visit.

just sayin, Tuesday, 12 February 2019 08:41 (one year ago) link

The last quarter of Eileen is so dumb, ridiculous and cliched. I feel like I’ve been cheated out of hours of my life getting this far.

calstars, Saturday, 16 February 2019 03:31 (one year ago) link

every time this thread gets bumped im like well looks like me and flappy are the only 2 ppl on this entire site who don’t hate this writer lol

flopson, Saturday, 16 February 2019 04:57 (one year ago) link

Going to read Eileen so I can say it's bad itt

( ͡☉ ͜ʖ ͡☉) (jim in vancouver), Saturday, 16 February 2019 07:30 (one year ago) link

time honoured ilx tradition

||||||||, Saturday, 16 February 2019 07:47 (one year ago) link

Also she has a bad take on Whoopi in TNG

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 16 February 2019 22:30 (one year ago) link

lol some other people like her I think

calstars maybe you'd like McGlue, can't remember if you already read it. pretty different from the rest of her stuff and my least favorite, I feel like if you don't dig Eileen or the stories you might like McGlue.

flappy bird, Saturday, 16 February 2019 22:32 (one year ago) link

Thanks flappy, I just started Year and will check out mcGlue after that. I like her a lot, just get frustrated with her

calstars, Saturday, 16 February 2019 23:59 (one year ago) link

Whenever she appeared on-screen, I sensed she was laughing at the whole production. Her presence made the show completely absurd. That was true of all her movies, too.

Kind of a strange compliment to give an actor. Apparently Whoopi is chill about it though.

o. nate, Sunday, 17 February 2019 03:04 (one year ago) link

Totally wrong

( ͡☉ ͜ʖ ͡☉) (jim in vancouver), Sunday, 17 February 2019 03:06 (one year ago) link

Guinan is a totally earnest performance and whoopi approached the producers about appearing on the show as a fan of the original Star Trek (the part was then written for her)

( ͡☉ ͜ʖ ͡☉) (jim in vancouver), Sunday, 17 February 2019 03:11 (one year ago) link

I liked Eileen! The whoopi and Harrison ford stuff in the new one felt like some sub-American psycho shit

gray say nah to me (wins), Sunday, 17 February 2019 08:10 (one year ago) link

Yeah. Not to mention that Trevor seems to be based on P Bateman or maybe since it’s set 15 years after A Psycho, that character might be modeling his personality on the book / movie.

The scenes with him in it with the main character read like rosencrantz and guildenstern style perspective shifts of scenes that could be A Psycho outtakes.

calstars, Sunday, 17 February 2019 23:41 (one year ago) link

ten months pass...

read the first two stories in the collection. (i know -- not enough to form an impression -- but still, form one i did.)

she is an extremely talented humorist. both "bettering myself" and "mr. wu" are kind of like, elaborate and fucked up jokes. "bettering myself" is less depressing because the narrator, who is the butt of the joke, is also in on the joke.

the characters are profoundly alienated and misanthropic. their lives feel like a kind of purgatory. probably more than half of all contemporary literary fiction seems to feature characters like this, which seems notable.

the ending of "mr wu" is brilliant, deranged and masterfully crafted. but i'm not sure what i'm supposed to make of that story or that character. i also wonder if anyone found that story racist.

treeship., Monday, 13 January 2020 04:07 (four months ago) link

two weeks pass...


Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation is to be made into a movie by none other than Yorgos Lanthimos. Name a more iconic duo. H U G E !

— Louise Benson (@benson_louise) January 6, 2020

flappy bird, Wednesday, 29 January 2020 23:40 (four months ago) link

two months pass...

New novel Death in Her Hands out in August (was scheduled for this month)

flappy bird, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 17:51 (one month ago) link

Cover art on her books is consistently far better than the contents deserve

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 9 April 2020 12:30 (one month ago) link

I'm surprised I haven't seen more mentions of 'My Year...' as proto-quarantine lit.

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 9 April 2020 14:00 (one month ago) link

“Sub-American Psycho shit” is still basically where I am with “my year” but I would watch the lanthimos adaptation no question

Microbes oft teem (wins), Thursday, 9 April 2020 14:04 (one month ago) link

sad this got pushed back but i have enough to read rn i guess

johnny crunch, Thursday, 9 April 2020 17:45 (one month ago) link

i read mcglue a little after i was being grumpy on this thread. maybe i would have felt more charitable about it had i not read my year first but, gosh.

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Thursday, 16 April 2020 12:47 (one month ago) link

She is very gifted but what I’ve read of her work is incredibly and unrelentingly misanthropic. The fact that someone so talented is writing about characters like this—like, that this is for her a plausible representation of humanity as such, even if it’s supposed to be a slight parody—is cause for alarm I think.

treeship., Thursday, 16 April 2020 14:10 (one month ago) link

I’ve only read that short story collection and the stories were really funny and well-crafted but unrelenting. There really wasn’t any sympathy or generosity in there, that I saw, to add levity to the pettiness and seething hatred. This was the source of the humor, obviously—like a really committed version of curb your enthusiasm—but it seems notable that these kind of characters and narratives feel naturalistic to contemporary. It’s like one part of human psychology has been given outsized prominence. It’s either a problem with capitalism or with fiction.

treeship., Thursday, 16 April 2020 14:18 (one month ago) link

*feels naturalistic to contemporary readers

Including myself, I should say. I wouldn’t be surprised to open up the minds of other New Yorkers, for instance, and find these kinds of bizarre solipsistic dramas playing out.

treeship., Thursday, 16 April 2020 14:21 (one month ago) link

McGlue seems like it could be interesting though. Hard to imagine what she’d do with a historical setting.

treeship., Thursday, 16 April 2020 14:27 (one month ago) link

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