Magazine article The Spectator

'My Year of Rest and Relaxation', by Ottessa Moshfegh - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'My Year of Rest and Relaxation', by Ottessa Moshfegh - Review

Article excerpt

The new novel by the author of the 2016 Booker shortlisted Eileen is at once a jumble of influences -- Oblomov by way of Tama Janowitz and Elizabeth Wurtzl, Bartleby with a touch of Bright Lights, Big City, a lunatic psychiatrist who melds Ayn Rand and William Burroughs -- and unnervingly original. It takes guts, after all, to spin a yarn out of a rich Upper East Side orphan who decides to put herself to sleep for a year in an attempt at rebirth. Beyond the evident -- the death of her parents, an obnoxious man in her life -- precisely why our narrator wishes to shed her skin remains unclear to us; but her tenacity in pursuing oblivion is unshakeable.

At 24, she has already burnt through the beginnings of a working life in Manhattan's conceptual art scene (for which we can hardly blame her); now, she has enlisted the aid of Dr Tuttle, whose eccentric consultations invariably end with the wholesale distribution of pharmaceutical samples, prescriptions and -- most cataclysmically -- an unregulated drug called 'Infermiterol'.

Our heroine is pretty good at juggling the Xanaxes, the Ambiens and the lithium (do not try this at home) in order to maintain her preferred daily routine: sleeping, watching VHS tapes of Star Trek and Indiana Jones in her brief periods of wakefulness, and attempting to curtail the visits of her blowsy friend Reva, all tequila, tears and quick-fix diets. But Infermiterol induces a development she hasn't foreseen: fugue states, in which she sleepwalks her way around the city, visiting night clubs, making impulsive purchases (a sweep of Sydney Pollack films and a Juicy Couture hot pink sweat suit from the Jewish Women's Council Thrift Shop) and placing vast orders for Chinese takeaways. …

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