Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh
I had read the Man-Booker prize shortlisted Eileen last year, and, even then, reviewers were commenting on how it was Ottessa Moshfegh's short stories that steal the show. When Homesick for Another World was released, I was eager to see which worlds these stories would take me.
I had no idea they would take me on some pretty disturbing journeys. Now, again, if you've read Eileen, you've had some hint that Moshfegh does not stray from the uncomfortable, from the human, from our grossest habits and nastiest reflections. Even so, reading Moshfegh is a shocking experience until you embrace it.
Her short stories cover alcoholic or drug-addicted schoolteachers; lonely, older, stalker men; ungrateful, young men who take advantage of older relatives and young women; dissatisfied, egoistic couples; dads with pregnant wives left at home; men who don't mourn much after their wives deaths; wanna-be actors; lonely, younger, stalker men with expensive tastes; and recalcitrant children.
Here's the thing, though, life is disturbing. In a way, she makes a wonderful case to be homesick for another world, where people aren't so disgusting and envious and murderous and self-loathing and conniving and lonely and dependent and addicted. This is one pretty bleak view of the world.
Yet, it feels real, even in its extremes sometimes, and I am glad there's is a beautiful, young author willing to write about all sorts of ugly characters. On rare occasions, you also find yourself really loving or identifying with the characters. For instance, the man who couldn't connect with his late wife or his living daughter, but instead spends all his time working at an assisted living home, or the young actor who does not know how to reach out to his mother but instead accepts the care of the old woman in the new city who hosts him.
We are all, in some way, a bit desperate. We seek what we need where we find it. That is the reminder of Moshfegh's stories.