My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book about grief, and aesthetics. Critique of late capitalism. Critique of the myth of beauty as truth. It’s no accident that at the end of the novel the protagonist sheds her expensive aesthetic objects, including herself as aesthetic and sexual (pornographic, in fact) object, for minimalist thrifting and an emotional relationship with things, things that have been lived with humble, forgotten others. A rewriting of Sleeping Beauty, like a stereotypical royal she grew up wealthy in goods and poor in love; her parents are cold and distant, her mother dies of an overdose like some character remnant from the Valley of the Dolls. As a result, the narrator suffers from a lack of self-worth, most evident in her sadomasochistic romance with Trevor. The narrator’s other prince, enfant terrible of the art world, takes the husk of her social self and markets it as art. Shedding her skin, a fox whose fur has been harvested to feed the human ego, the narrator sits, peeled and renewed, like some of Angela Carter’s characters in The Bloody Chamber, among the living in Central Park. Flawed though her helpers are–her insecure friend Reva who is nevertheless the only person who says “I love you,” her batty shrink who prescribes her a pharmacopoeia that would kill an ox–they contribute to her heroine’s journey to self-love. Spoiler: Reva’s fall from the Twin Towers is symbolically the fall of American capitalism. We should all wake up before it’s too late.

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