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James Ley on Ottessa Moshfegh

At the Sydney Review of Books, James Ley has a perceptive critique of Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation in the context of her body of work, and her interest in “the body”:

What makes Moshfegh an uncommon writer is that beneath the scorn and the dark humour there lurks an authentic Swiftian disgust. Her work has a corporeal, rebarbative, scatological quality. She revels in the grubbiness of the human body, splashes the ordure around like a preschooler in a muddy puddle. Her characters smell bad. And this recurring note of fascinated distaste makes it hard to disentangle their misanthropy from their self-loathing. For Moshfegh, negative emotions always possess this double-edged quality. Her characters recoil from a hateful reality, but they have also internalised its hatefulness. They are uncomfortable with their own embodiment; they neglect their physical wellbeing (even maintaining minimal standards of personal hygiene would seem to be too much of a concession to the world’s phoniness); they cultivate self-destructive habits and seek solace in oblivion.