In Otessa Moshfegh's latest novel "My Year of Rest and Relaxation", the overriding plot is that of the main character wanting to sleep the whole day aIn Otessa Moshfegh's latest novel "My Year of Rest and Relaxation", the overriding plot is that of the main character wanting to sleep the whole day and all night, all through the book. She would resort to all kinds of pills and medications. She gets most of them from her psychiatrist, Dr Tuttle, who would pass on to her to try out new or untested drugs she'd received from pharmaceutical companies.
From the beginning, the reader would get used to reading her mostly short easily constructed uncomplicated sentences. This is congruent with her constant drugged state, in which it would be hard put for her to make up more than just subject, verb, predicate constructions. You encounter occasional dependent clauses when her mind occasionally surfaces into a tincture of clarity.
Probably because of the inordinate amounts of these drugs she imbibes, she might have attained a threshold whereby they ceased to induce sleep anymore. Nevertheless she doesn't stop and keeps on taking these pills. She panicks and can't fathom why they don't work as before. Instead they produce the opposite effect of sleep—she keeps awake at all hours.
As a consequence, her brain begins to buzz. Her sentences begin to lengthen. At one point when she thinks back about her dead mother, she abandons her usual short sentences. They now concatenate, and she weaves them into one very long, perfectly grammatical sentence. She is so completely awake that she manages to think logically and grammatically. Previously it was all short bursts, as if she couldn't go further than the simplest sentence, before she had to stop, getting sleepy, and then starting up again, when she jerks back to consciousness for merely seconds or minutes.
After this scary bout of insomnia, she plans to lock herself in her apartment, giving the key to a Chinese artist Ping Xi, so that he can visit her every few days to replenish her supplies she requested on Post-its. She has either thrown away most of her belongings or given them to charities. The remainder of book, we see the times when she wakes up and eats and drinks very little, baths, exercises a little, and then goes back to sleep for days.
When she ends this sleep marathon, Xi gets his art installation out of it, and she achieves what she needs changed in her life, when she comes out of it alive. It wouldn't do to put down here what changes these are. You'd have to read to know.
As for other characters in the book, there are just a few. There's Reva, a half Asian Jewish girl. She's the only friend who could stand her in college. Reva visits using a key to the apartment. These are regular and unwanted incursions. They culminate in an act of supposed kindness—Reva steals all her drugs she needs to knock her out, every last pill. Like the nameless protagonist, Reva also has a penchant for older men, her boss at work, while the unarmed woman thinks she's fallen for Trevor, several years older than her. They have an on off relationship, which she manipulates by calling and asking for help or favors, and sometimes threatening self harm. He always succumbs, and buys the stuff she wants. But even though he tells her he won't have sex with her ever again, when he gets to her place, he could never stop himself from from having oral sex on her, which she doesn't mind one bit.
Throughout the the book, we find that she always wakes up and discovers that, like some sleepwalker, she manages to go out and shop for food and things, and one time even to a nightclub. She only realizes she has perpetrated all this when she finds strange objects in her apartments, like pictures of her partying.
Reading to the last page and chapter of the book, I am awed by the sentences. All I can say is that they involve 9/11 and the Twin Towers, and the woman falling down to her death....more
I never thought I could finish reading it within a week or so - it's over 800 pages, after all. But I did.
I came across this article about the staffI never thought I could finish reading it within a week or so - it's over 800 pages, after all. But I did.
I came across this article about the staff in GQ who read it : "its pages have made the grown men and women in this office burst into tears"
I confess I sniffed a lot after 400 pages and continued doing so right to the end of the book. All because of the horrible things happening to Jude St Francis.
Im not going to reveal anything but near three quarters of reading the book, I thought, Good god, how much of shit things can an author let happen to a character. Answer : shitload and shitloads.
It's a very very thick book, and so so so emotionally draining: I had to clear my nose several times after reading through some wrenching scenes. And I never got to sleep till after 3 am, reading this book. I mean, how can any reader put it down while in the midst of reading some devastating scene?