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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation

My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh

No doubt this book is a tough sell. Well what's it about? It's about a young woman, living in NYC in 2000, and she's depressed, so she takes a lot of drugs and sleeps a lot. Then what happens? She takes more drugs and sleeps even more. Then? Well, she takes more drugs, but has trouble sleeping. Okay, let's jump past all the drugs and sleeping, what happens after all that? She wakes up, I guess. That's it? Well, there's also this whole obsession with Whoopi Goldberg. That's pretty interesting.

So my love of Whoopi began with Star Trek: The Next Generation. For those who do not know, she played Guinan, the ship's bartender.

Despite her secondary role, Guinan was my favorite character from that series. So already I was impressed with My Year of Rest and Relaxation for the unnamed narrator's fascination with Goldberg. But when I found out her obsession began with Guinan—oh, Ottessa, you have captured my heart. I digress...

And I still haven't sold you on this book, have I?

Okay, Moshfegh has a way of making a simple story semi-interesting. No, My Year... is certainly not riveting, but the beauty of the language and the inner workings of the narrator's mind are engaging. Perhaps this novel reached a point about two-thirds of the way through when it began to feel like the idea had run its course, but that final third wasn't a drag by any means. Part of why this book succeeds is, I think, because Moshfegh is in no way heavy-handed with the connections she makes to an apathetic people, a dying art scene, and a wake-up call. The few characters who revolve around our narrator's world are unlikable and played for humor, which worked, but didn't allow me to grow close to any of them. This leaves only the narrator who is over-privileged and despicable in her own ways, but at least she understands a love of Guinan. (Sometimes all you need is Whoopi.)

It's not easy to convince anyone to read a book about a woman who sleeps. And that's okay, because many readers probably won't love My Year of Rest and Relaxation. At times, it's slow, dry, and depressing. I think with all things Moshfegh writes, it either subtly grows on you, or it doesn't.