Ottessa Moshfegh’s long-awaited new novel, Lapvona, was released a couple of months ago and I was just able to buy it now. However, I have been occupying myself with reading every other novel Moshfegh has published since I became obsessed with My Year of Rest and Relaxation Last Year. I read McGlue and Homesick for Another World (which is awesome and deserves another post altogether)… and finally, I read Eileen. Dare I say Moshfegh is the most talented writer alive? Well, she’s at least in my top 10. Whenever I finish one of her books I feel actual pain because one, I wish they were longer and two, the stories always manage to touch some fibres that had been yet unreached by other writers. I wish my inner monologues were written by her. I sometimes wish, especially when I am in a miserable mood, that my days were also narrated by her. It is maybe a good thing and though I would call myself a ‘sad girl’ I am trying to exercise some self-control.
Anyways, what was so special about Eileen? Many things! But mainly Eileen herself, the main character/narrator. In my opinion that is the best thing about Moshfegh’s novels: her characters. All the plots are character driven. I am not saying there is no plot. Actually, Eileen has a great story, something to keep you interested involving crime, murder, an escape.. but Eileen herself! She is the most pathetic and somehow endearing character. She is the kind of Holden Caufield a teenage girl can actually relate to.
In the beginning, we are introduced to an older, wiser Eileen. An elderly woman with no regrets and with love for life, empathy and just the kind of personality that would suit your nice aunty. She was not always like this though. When she was younger she was miserable, full of rage and hate for the world, she was a disembodied loser, a self-loathing weirdo of a girl and I loved it because I don’t think anyone had written what being a young woman who hates her body but also thinks she is better than anyone else feels like (have you been there too? am I oversharing?). And Eileen is not even likeable, not her younger self. She has few redeeming qualities and if that wasn’t enough, she’s had a terrible childhood of abuse and is now the sole caretaker of her alcoholic father. This is just some context about her life and the way in which she narrates her miserable existence is pure gold, filled with dirty details, some gory thoughts, uncomfortable feelings, a lot of hatred and fury but also a lot of unrequited love and unexplored sexual feelings.
The plot is a wild ride too. I won’t say too much but let’s just say this is the story of how she escaped her small New England town. This is not the story of how she overcame her issues and created a new life for herself, it’s just the story of how she left and it takes place over one week in December when a stranger named Rebecca arrives in town and changes Eileen’s life forever. Intriguing? Yes! Another reason I love Moshfegh is that her books are a reminder that great literature can be unputdownable and fun and scary and ugly as well as moving and thought-provoking and deep and aesthetically pleasing. I forgot commas existed for a second there, sorry.
But anyways, I am super excited to finally read Lapvona and write more about my thoughts on Moshfegh, perhaps in a more structured way. You should really read any of her books and keep in mind Eileen is perhaps not for the fainthearted.
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