Ottessa Moshfegh books are pretty divisive I imagine. I have to only imagine since I have loved all of them, this one the most, but I can also see how unpleasant they might come across. I don’t think you have to like the narrator of this novel to be absolutely mesmerized by her and this narrative. It’s about a woman who recently graduated from Columbia trying to sleep away all of fall of 2000 and the most of 2001 using a potent concoction of various prescription drugs that she wrangles from an inept psycho-therapist by pretending to be an insomniac, and not someone who can sleep for days on end. It’s also a novel that effectively uses the dramatic irony of 9/11 in about the only way that I could imagine it being used right now without it being a cloylingly sentimental and bad way. That’s all I will say there.
This book is a great and toxic attack on some very New York things like the whole of the financial industry, lower Manhattan, drug-based psychology, and the contemporary art business. The voice in this novel is so direct and cutting it makes you feel complicit and dirty, but also petty and indulgent in the ways that someone’s detached almost sociopathic criticism of social convention can do. Because she’s our narrator and because we’re on her side, it’s so hard to sympathize with others in the novel, even some of the more harmless ones. So the result is a very dirty set of experiences that almost relieving and cathartic in how far the take us into the specific and personal oblivion someone literally trying to obliterate herself can take us.