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3.62  ·  Rating details ·  2,464 ratings  ·  373 reviews
Selected for the inaugural Fence Modern Prize in Prose by Rivka Galchen.

Salem, Massachusetts, 1851: McGlue is in the hold, still too drunk to be sure of name or situation or orientation—he may have killed a man. That man may have been his best friend. Intolerable memory accompanies sobriety. A-sail on the high seas of literary tradition, Ottessa Moshfegh gives us a nasty
Paperback, 118 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Fence Books (first published September 22nd 2014)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,464 ratings  ·  373 reviews

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How would I describe this little devil of a debut? This nasty novella?


If I do, the problem is that Ottessa Moshfegh has ruined, nay, massacred, the concept of "dark", redefining it into something far more foul, pulling it down into something that exceeds that weak little word, into the most vile, hopeless scum-hole... and then she laughs. No one can write "dark" anymore, now that she's around. She's lowered the bar, in the best way of course, lowered it closer to hell.

Reading this story is
Helen McClory
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novellarama
This book has salt on its fists and iron on its dancing feet.
What a piece of vicious brilliance.
Sentimental Surrealist
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: have-met-author
We have yet to see the next-level Ottessa Moshfegh book that I firmly believe she's capable of delivering. So I'm holding out on the five that my effusive review might otherwise point to. This, of course, is the way of things; she's only now coming up on book three, and I'd rather someone begin a little short of their potential than release a knockout debut and stagnate afterward. For its part, McGlue is a novel of a few small problems. There isn't a whole ton of character development, the hazy ...more
Moshfegh excels crafting characters’ voices. She revels in the grotesque, never so much perhaps as with this one, her first foray into fiction. McGlue is a story that unravels along with its narrator, though where it leads may not be as satisfying to readers as how it gets them there.
Read By RodKelly
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tessie is one of my favorite authors right now.

After reading Eileen, and Homesick for Another World, I was dying to get my hands on her first novel (more a novella), which she says is her favorite thing that she's written. I can understand why! She has an uncanny, almost preternatural ability to take a character and wrangle every single nuance out of them. She is meticulously, overwhelmingly detailed in her descriptions of mostly despicable, filthy people looking for some meta version of
Peter Landau
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
MCGLUE, the title and main character of the novel by Ottessa Moshfegh, is unmoored in a rummy ocean of memories and over the 100-odd pages of his narrative tries to grab hold of some buoy of truth to anchor himself to the possibility that he murdered his friend and companion named Johnson. There’s a literal crack in his skull from which flow the metaphoric salty language he uses to tell his tale of woe. He sounds fully wedded to his time in history and contemporary in his concerns about love and ...more
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, arc
I get up. My head thwarts around and I see nothing, then I see stars. Saunders called Johnson dead, I think. I greet the cot again, blind. Saunders will come back with Johnson and have a laugh. Until then I’ll ride my cogitations out through the stabbing pains in my skull, the licking waves. Most likely I’ll doze then wake up to bread and butter and hot beans and whiskey and it’ll be night and we’ll be halfway to China and they’ll say, “Hit the well, McGlue,” like after my last bout. I try to
Patty Cottrell
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
i've said before ottessa moshfegh is the best writer working right now. i think it's probably true, and then i think to myself that we don't need terms like best or worst. she's just doing her thing and it's fucking amazing. McGlue is violent and harsh and delicate and so empathetic and lovely. they kept using the word intoxicating and intoxicant on the back of the book. it's true - an addictive and poisonous flower.
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Lackluster grit ... yeah, I know, it does sound nosensical, and so is the book. The idea was interesting, but the pretentious grittiness was sub-par. All the ingredients for a good book (intrigue, confused memories, self-destructive unreliable character, two plot-lines, two temporal planes, familial tragedy, forbidden love) are there, but still ... just meh!
David J
Sep 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Review to come.
“We’d always been good friends, remember. He saved my life. I was freezing to death somewhere, newark a stone statue with icicles hanging from my nose. On a horse he came up promising me what, I forget now, again”.

McGlue is a drunk who is accused of killing his best friend. The only problem is, he does not remember. With a bad head injury and a life filled with alcohol day in and day out, McGlue lived with no true purpose. His best friend Johnson found him and played his nurturer. The
Brent Legault
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I could have five-starred this scrappy little number sight unseen. I've been dying to get my hands on a Moshfegh book for years now. And when her first collection of stories comes out, well, beware of tumbling, tumbling accolades, kudos, and boy-howdies!

But I have read it. And I have rated it. And I'll reread sometime soon. And I'll shout, "McGlue!" when I do.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
There's some strong ingredients here but it doesn't really come together for me. I love Ottessa's other work but this damaged sailor's tale is my least favorite.
tortoise dreams
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A sailor in the 19th Century recalls life, alcohol, and friendship on the high seas.

Book Review: McGlue is both a punch in the gut and as odd a literary debut as we may find. Along with Haruki Murakami, Ottessa Moshfegh is the most troublesome writer I've read. Both deliberately try to frustrate, anger, disappoint, and confound their readers. Who does that? I mean, whose 2014 debut novel is the confession of a lifelong-alcoholic sailor in 1851 with an oozing, open-head injury who hates the world
Charles Dee Mitchell
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary-lit
Here is a great 19th century novel of the sea seen through the alcoholic haze of a man accused of murdering his best friend. There are exotic ports of call, men driven by despair and anger to seek the unanchored existence of a sailor, and hints of all the allegorical possibilities of "the voyage." But Moshfegh locks the reader into McGlue's internal monologue as he recounts his blighted young life saved by his great friend Johnson, whom he has almost certainly killed at the other man's request. ...more
Like cracking your skull, prying your head open with your fingers and pouring whiskey inside it.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
McGlue’s a drunk. It’s 1851, and with a grog-laden body and muddled head, he’s detained for murder. He is so consumed with desire for more drink that he’s convinced he did nothing wrong. What follows is a fever dream-like sequence of drying up and remembering.

Moshfegh is one of the most stimulating writers I’ve encountered in years. I’ve read all of her books and her prose is consistently sharp, gorgeous, and grotesque. Her ability to create vulnerable characters feels like a reflection of
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unrelenting
I love Moshfegh's writing. Few, if any, can match her gifts in voicing the most vile and disturbed anti-heroes imaginable in such stylized syntax. This is very good, but won't be for everyone due to subject matter.
Listened on audio and loved the narrator. It's a short book, which makes it a quick listen, and it's quite deliciously told by an unreliable character who's been accused of murdering his best friend. What a friggen mess this guy is. It's all drinking, brawling, and chasing ass as McGlue probes his memories while he's awaiting trial for an event he can't quite recall.
Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)
I’m glad they are reissuing Moshfegh’s first work now that her books have found a steady following! This little novella set in 1851 is quite interesting, following the perspective of a man being held for the murder of his friend as he floats back and forth between present events and the past, attempting to remember what happened leading up to his friend’s death.

This novella has shades of Eileen—Moshfegh’s breakout novel—throughout, evoking the dark and brooding atmosphere of that work along with
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This raw grit of a man's life who may have killed his best friend he loves. The writing is stellar. Although for a story that mentions the "blacks" I knew they would eventually become "nigger". No shock there. But it just wasn't necessary. At all. Your writing is great without it. The story just didn't need that, at all.
Michelle Gragg
Nov 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rumpus
I enjoyed this book. I would have never chosen it. The text is a little confusing at times because the main character flashes back between the present and past. McGlue is a complex man who struggles with his homosexuality, his history, and his view of women. He is further confounded by his debilitating alcoholism. By the end of the book it seems that his reality and what he has done are enough to keep him far from ever being sane again. I didn't like him too much as a man. But as a character he ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-york, fiction
Reminded me of the opening pages of Wolf Hall with Cromwell getting beaten up on the cobblestones but extended to novella length. And also The Stranger; the first paragraph does contain the word "dead" doesn't it and McGlue is strange. The writing and atmosphere are convincing but there are some impenetrable bits and it meandered in the middle.
Dec 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
This has the feel of something rescued from obscurity by a grad student deep in the stacks, and yet it was published just this year. Put a 19th-century literary giant's name on it, and this text would be considered one of their minor masterpieces, I'd bet.
Conor Ahern
Not as good as "Eileen"... a bit too spare, disjointed, sere and "method" for me.
Karen (idleutopia_reads)
This book cannot be condensed to a review. It is definitely a book that is heavy with meaning between the spaces of its lines. It is difficult to explain what this book is about because it definitely feels as if its something that you need to experience. Moshfegh does such a brilliant job of making you feel as drunk as our unlikable and unreliable narrator that transcribed words can't do justice to the experience. I will give a warning that I feel that this is a book that requires multiple ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Here I thought I was done reading for the year and yet I’m finding myself plowing through another book – to be fair one that’s not even 120 pages (though damnit I wish it were more) – while everyone is out pounding champagne and/or watching the ball drop. Pretty well sums up which phase of my life I am in.

I suppose it’s fitting I’d close out 2018 with one of my favorite new-ish authors, that being the brilliant and bizarre Ottessa Moshfegh. Her most recent output, The Year of Rest and
I think I would read Moshfegh’s grocery list and be entranced! This is her first novel and she is such an amazing talent! This short novel hooked me quick and never let up. This was one of my favorite quotes, “I didn’t want to make it. I wanted to lie down with it and strangle it and kill it and save it and nurse it and kill it again and I wanted to go and forget where I was going and I wanted to change my name and forget my face and I wanted to drink and get my head ruined but I certainly hadn’ ...more
I love how Ottessa creates & writes her characters but this novella didn't completely convince me in the end.
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantabulous
By Ottessa Moshfagh
Fence Books

WOW! This is what I call literature!
Set in Mid 19th. Century, this is a first person account of the dark, troubled life and mind of a brutal and ambivalent alcoholic named McGlue. The novel begins with McGlue slowly sobering up enough to realize he is being held prisoner on a ship, on the way to jail. The violence and abuse he has wrought in his past is creeping up on him in memories, charged with killing his best friend Johnson, he does not believe he did
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Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Her first book, McGlue, a novella, won the Fence Modern Prize in Prose and the Believer Book Award. She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World. Her stories have been published in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Granta, and have earned her a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, the Plimpton Discovery ...more
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“Right," I said, but it didn't feel very right. I didn't want to make it. I wanted to lie down with it and strangle it and kill it and save it and nurse it and kill it again and I wanted to go and forget where I was going and I wanted to change my name and forget my face and I wanted to drink and get my head ruined but I certainly hadn't thought about making it. That wasn't anything I'd ever sought out to do.” 1 likes
“They'll twist your nose until it smells death in a bed of roses.” 0 likes
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