‘A Dark and Winding Road’ by Ottessa Moshfegh

Moshfegh is flawless generally, but is supersonic when reinventing the cliches of fiction. A man travelling to a dark hut in the woods, surely ripe territory for an American horror story? I guess it is a horror story for the narrator, who is running from the environment his as yet unborn child will create and his “life as [he’d] known it [is] forever ruined.”

Chekhov said that if a gun is placed in a scene it must at some point be used. Exploring the old house the man finds Chekhov’s gun, only its a large pink dildo. And it really does go off in a way I never expected.  With an end game typical of Moshfegh’s, it’s unclear whether the characters have been liberated or debilitated. 

First published in The Paris Review Winter 2013, and available for subscribers to read here. Collected in Homesick for Another World, Jonathan Cape, 2017

‘No Place for Good People’ by Ottessa Moshfegh

I feel like I’ve rolled into a point in my life where Moshfegh’s writing really really does it for me. I love the detail of her writing. In ‘No Place for Good People’ we are introduced to the care home Offerings and its habitants, those passing through and those living there. She manages the logistics of the environment while making us care for a large swathe of characters. Mostly, I enjoy her unlikeable narrators.

First published in The Paris Review 209, Summer 2014, and available to subscribers to read here, with a free to view extract, and collected in Homesick for Another World, Vintage, 2017

‘Mr Wu’/ ‘Bettering Myself’ by Ottessa Moshfegh

I first encountered these stories in The Paris Review and what a fitting introduction to the id-driven, shame-fuelled, funny and disgusting world that Moshfegh creates. My Year of Rest and Relaxation was my favourite book of last year and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

‘Mr Wu’ first published as ‘Disgust’ in The Paris Review 202, 2012. ‘Bettering Myself’ first published in The Paris Review 204, 2013. Collected in Homesick for Another World, Jonathan Cape, 2017

‘A Dark and Winding Road’ by Ottessa Moshfegh

I have a major crush on Ottessa Moshfegh’s writing right now. First I read ‘An Honest Woman’, then I heard her read ‘A Dark and Winding Road’, then I binged on her brilliant collection Homesick for Another World. She says she’s done with the short story, which is a shame, but has already written more good ones than a lot of people manage so it’s hard to begrudge her decision. Her characters are borderline if not full-blown grotesques, her vision of the world is bleak – transactional, treacherous, comfortless – but my god, what a stylist. She’s like a secular Flannery O’Connor. The first 14 lines of ‘A Dark and Winding Road’ are flawless, themselves a winding route to the story’s dark heart: the narrator’s “one last weekend to myself before the baby was born and my life as I’d known it was forever ruined”.

From Homesick for Another World, Jonathan Cape 2017, first published in the Paris Review Winter 2013. Hear Ottessa Moshfegh read the story in Episode 7 of the Paris Review podcast, here

‘An Honest Woman’ by Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa Moshfegh is a genius. She’s talented, outspoken and interested in portraying lives that make other people feel uncomfortable. I enjoy watching the reactions to her work as much as I enjoy reading the work itself.

In ‘An Honest Woman’, Jeb sets up his nephew with the unnamed young woman who lives next door. His opinions of women are pretty grim: “You know women. Stray cats, all of them, either purring in your lap or pissing in your shoes.” Doesn’t stop him trying to take what he fancies though.

In Homesick for Another World. First published in The New Yorker and available to read here