“Having a trash chute was one of my favorite things about my building. It made me feel important, like I was participating in the world.”
Moshfegh’s most recent book, 2022’s Lapvona, was among the best books I’ve ever read. So even if her other work can’t be classified as speculative fiction, I owed it to myself to read more of her. Curious about the hip and trending, I decided to read her second novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a book that featured in 19 prominent year-end lists of 2018. Does this book endure, 5 years later?
The answer is easy: yes. Set in the New York of 2000, it doesn’t have a timeless quality per se, but both Moshfegh’s narrative voice and her themes easily surpass the local – both in time as in space.
The plot might be well known to the literati, maybe my readers need a quick pointer: My Year of Rest and Relaxation is about an unnamed woman in her 20ies, working for a contemporary art gallery, recently orphaned, beautiful and slender. Wikipedia further spells it out like this: “increasingly dissatisfied with her post-collegiate life, the narrator finds a conveniently incompetent psychiatrist, Dr. Tuttle, who freely prescribes a variety of sleeping, anti-anxiety, and anti-psychotic medications for the insomnia the narrator reports as her complaint; in fact, the narrator hopes to spend as few hours awake as possible, lulling herself with pills and middlebrow movies she plays on repeat on her VCR (…).”
It didn’t captivate me in the same way as Lapvona did, but it is still an excellent book I would easily recommend if the above seems to your liking. Be warned however: Moshfegh is known for her unlikable characters, and a fascination for the bodily disgusting – even if the latter is far less present than in Lapvona. My Year of Rest and Relaxation‘s title might have a soothing ring to it, but its protagonist borders on the misanthropic. What’s the ethics of that?