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My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa…
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My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018)

by Ottessa Moshfegh

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4382135,548 (3.66)40

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English (20)  Piratical (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
This is the weirdest book I have listened to this year. Absurd, tragicomical, navel-gazing, cynical, self-loathing, pitiful, yet there is a philosophical, painful undercurrent. Moshfegh is writing mostly about nothing - but with so much observation of detail, dark cynisism, gross honesty, that I was fascinated, almost spellbound, watching this train wreck to the end.

The characters are god awful. Our unnamed protagonist hates herself, her life, the world, and everyone in it. She is a terrible friend to Reeva, who clings to her for affection which she is unable and unwilling to give. Reeva goes through some of the worst trials in a life - her mother’s illness and death, an unwanted pregnancy - yet our MC can only feel irritation towards her. Trevor, her boyfriend, is a horrible abusive jerk with gross, selfish sex habits, yet MC is practically stalking him in her neediness, as she has no other friends.

The hilarious moments of the book come from the deranged, shamanistic psychiatrist MC sees. I laughed out loud a few times (“Did you know that meditation was found very beneficial for insomnia in rats?”). The complete irresponsibility with which she gives MC an arsenal of prescription sedatives and sleeping pills is a spot on send-up of our societies addiction to pills and crooked or uncaring doctors, carelessly aiding addiction and self-destruction. Moshfegh also tears down the phony “canned counterculture” that sells trash as art - the grosser, the better and more expensive.

The plot is straightforward - our protagonist decides to sleep through the year, hoping to re-emerge from hibernation changed, being able to feel again, finding a sense of purpose in life. While this is completely absurd, I can’t help thinking that she is a large step ahead of many other train wrecks - she knows what her problem is, and she is determined to solve it, even if her solution is ridiculous. What keeps the reader from conpletely hating her is that while she is awful to herself and her friend, she never blames others for her problems.

As we move on, MC recalls the death of her own parents, her mother’s self-absorbtion and neglect, her growing up unloved and hated by her peers, because she was pretty, thin and had money. Contrast that with Reeva, who genuinely mourns her mother whom she clearly loved. There is a large element of the book contemplating death, and its similarity to sleep, and the question if there is re-birth after them.

Another intriguing aspect of the book is its timing. It takes place in New York during 2000 and 2001, just before 9/11, which shows up in the last page of the book. Reading about it now, it seems like the entire US was sleeping, was on a rot of aimlessness, phony macho culture, the decadence of the last vestiges of prosperity. The reader knows this timeline, but the protagonist does not, which gives an interesting double meaning to the very personal journey... is Moshfegh drawing a parallel to the sleeping of the country, that was awakened from its drug-fuelled haze by 9/11? Did we get a jolt of realism, a kick in the rear by that tragedy - discovering that life is worth living?

It is a book to ponder.

Trigger warning: if you cannot handle gross bodily functions, sex scenes or abominable characters, this book is not for you. ( )
  Gezemice | Mar 8, 2019 |
Hilariously depressing or depressingly hilarious depending on your disposition. Bit conflicted about the millenium setting but there’s a lot to love about this book. Could be a Catcher in the Rye for the nihilist Twitter generation. ( )
  alexrichman | Feb 12, 2019 |
This was like a fictional recounting of a fantasy I have that I know can never be realized: to go to sleep for a long period and then wake up as a blank slate, to start over again from scratch. The unnamed narrator of this book is intensely unlikeable, but yet she is so relatable, at least for someone like me, who knows from depression. I thought this was much better than Eileen, Moshfegh's other novel that I have read, which also featured an unlikeable female lead. And I think it's very honest, which can make for hard reading. This is not a book for everyone, but I think if it does connect with you, it will connect with you hard. ( )
  sturlington | Feb 11, 2019 |
"Holy shit!" These were the words that were on my lips as I finished the last line of this very dark, clever, and fantastic novel. Though the last line referenced an over-used metaphor, the line was perfection.
The book is centered on a good-looking, privileged young woman living her NYC life on a wealthy inheritance. She's normally the most attractive woman in any room, has a stunning wardrobe, lives in a great apartment, yet she decides that her life would be so much better, she would be a better person, if only she slept more. She embarks on a life of narcotic hibernation. A willing doctor with no qualms about prescribing enough heavy-duty drugs to knock out a grizzly bear, makes her hibernation possible. The book is littered with the drug brand names that knock her out for many hours each day.
Her parents are dead, her "best friend" has no real attachment to her, an experimental artist she knows only see her as a project. Trevor, her Wall Street "boyfriend" is another very odd relationship in her life, and it eventually collapses under it own lovelessness. Other than these characters, there are only the non-relationships she has with her building's doorman, and the corner store clerks. The book starts with her working a job she certainly doesn't need or have much of a connection with, and it disappears. Numerous flashbacks show her upbringing in a family household of severely-stunted feelings, the family member mostly just cohabitate.
The word bleak entered my mind repeatedly as I read this dark story. Yet, through all the drugs, the lack of any real attachments -- other than to her pills -- the book takes you deep into our main character's most unusual head.
The last part of her hibernation is even more intense. She gives away practically all her furniture, clothes, and other belongings, has the locks changed so she cannot leave her apartment, arranges for the artist to bring her minimal food and such, and then embarks on three months of a bizarre "rehab." She uses only forty of the strongest pills -- the ones that knock her out for three days each -- and starts her program. The schedule: take a pill, followed by three days of unconsciousness (during which the gay artist comes with some supplies and can film or record her in any way he wants for his art project), followed by her coming to and a short period to eat cold pizza, shower, and then it's time for another pill, and the next three days down.
Does she rehabilitate herself?
What is the final art project?
Is she a happier, a better person?
Those answers are all in the last pages of this intensely different and rewarding novel.
It's a clever, dark, trying, painful at times, very original, and well-written novel. ( )
  jphamilton | Feb 7, 2019 |
Inspirational. I slept 11 hours after I finished this book. The only problem is I didn't wake up with a renewed appreciation for life so that part sucked. ( )
1 vote Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
"A beautiful 24-year-old gallery assistant wants nothing more than to sleep — not for a rejuvenating eight hours, but 'full-time,' like a hibernating bear or an aspiring narcoleptic. Her goal is to sleep, not perchance to dream, but to 'drown out my thoughts and judgments, since the constant barrage made it hard not to hate everyone and everything.'"
 
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Epigraph
If you're smart or rich or lucky
Maybe you'll beat the laws of man
But the inner laws of spirit
And the outer laws of nature
No man can
No, no man can . . .
"The Wolf that Lives in Lindsey," Joni Mitchell
Dedication
For Luke. My one. My only.
First words
Whenever I woke up, night or day, I'd shuffle through the bright marble foyer of my building and go up the block and around the corner where there was a bodega that never closed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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It's early 2000 on New York City's Upper East Side, and the alienation of Moshfegh's unnamed young protagonist from others is nearly complete when she initiates her yearlong siesta, during which time she experiences limited personal interactions. Her parents have died; her relationships with her bulimic best friend Reva, an ex-boyfriend, and her drug-pushing psychiatrist are unwholesome. As her pill-popping intensifies, so does her isolation and determination to leave behind the world's travails. She is also beset by dangerous blackouts induced by a powerful medication.… (more)

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