Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Million Things Left Unsaid

A photo of clouds and a poem called The Million Things Left Unsaid by Ingrid A. Lobo

Thursday, September 14, 2023

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018) is a novel by Ottessa Moshfegh about a depressed, unnamed 26-year-old woman who decides to hibernate for a year and emerge as a new person. The narrator seems to have it all—she’s young, she’s blond, thin, and beautiful, she’s wealthy and lives off an inheritance in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and she has a job at an art gallery in Chelsea.

Despite these privileges, she’s dissatisfied, dark, and miserable. We learn that her emotionally unavailable father died of cancer during her junior year at Columbia, and her unfeeling, alcoholic mother committed suicide weeks later. The narrator has little self esteem and has an on-again off-again relationship with Trevor, a cruel older man who works on Wall Street and uses her for sex. She has a complex, resentful relationship with her best friend Reva, whom she seems to judge, dislike, and tolerate. Reva’s mother is dying of cancer, but the narrator is so detached that she has no sympathy for her friend.

She says, "I was both relieved and irritated when Reva showed up, the way you'd feel if someone interrupted you in the middle of suicide. Not that what I was doing was suicide. In fact, it was the opposite of suicide. My hibernation was self-preservational. I thought that it was going to save my life."

As the narrator begins to sleep more and more, she finds relief in the emptiness. She contacts an unethical psychiatrist named Dr. Tuttle, and lies about her symptoms, claiming to be an insomniac. Dr. Tuttle barely listens to the narrator, but prescribes her a wide array of pharmaceuticals to help her sleep.

She contemplates her library of psychopharmaceuticals thinking, "Life was fragile and fleeting and one had to be cautious, sure, but I would risk death if it meant I could sleep all day and become a whole new person."

Will the narrator’s plan work? Is sleep and escape from reality really the answer?

I bought this book sight unseen from Barnes and Noble. It was a surprise book, wrapped up and labeled with the above synopsis as part of a “Blind Date with a Book” display. I don’t think I would have picked the book up on my own, and selecting it helped expand my reading.

Although the narrator craved sleep throughout this book, the story kept me awake, reading until the very end.

Purchase and read books by Ottessa Moshfegh:

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

Friday, September 8, 2023

Late Fame by Arthur Schnitzler

Late Fame by Arthur Schnitzler

Late Fame is a novella by the Austrian novelist and playwright Arthur Schnitzler (1862–1931). In 1938, Schnitzler’s writings were saved from the Nazis and moved to the Cambridge University Library. In 2014, Late Fame was re-discovered in Schnitzler's archives and published posthumously.

Schnitzler is known writing with candor about pleasure-seeking and sex in fin-de-si√®cle Vienna. Sigmund Freud called Schnitzler his "doppelg√§nger." Many of Schnitzler’s works were censored and banned because of their subject matter. In recent years, Schnitzler’s story Traumnovelle (Rhapsody or Dream Story) was adapted by Stanley Kubrick as the film Eyes Wide Shut starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

In Late Fame, we meet Eduard Saxberger, an older man who lives quietly in Vienna and works as a civil servant. One evening, a young man named Wolfgang Meier arrives at his door asking if he is the poet of the Wanderings. Saxberger is astonished. In his youth, he published a volume of poetry, but his writing was never recognized. Like many people, Saxberger went on with life and stopped writing. But now, this young man and his circle of aspiring literary friends have rediscovered Saxberger’s writings and wish to celebrate him.

Meier invites Saxberger to join his literary society called "Enthusiasm." The group meets at a local coffee shop. Saxberger begins to attend and enjoys the admiration of the group. He explores his dusty documents, reads his old writings, and wonders if he is a poet after all. The literary society decides to put on a recital to get recognition for their works, and they ask Saxberger to contribute a new piece.

Saxberger agrees, but can he can he write a new work? Can he recapture his youthful dream? And does he fit in with this group of young writers, or is he past his prime?

Late Fame explores themes of aspiration, aging, artistic temperament, and vanity and is both tragic and comedic.

Purchase and read books by Arthur Schnitzler:

Late Fame by Arthur Schnitzler Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

You Will Find Your People by Lane Moore

You Will Find Your People by Lane Moore

You Will Find Your People: How to Make Meaningful Friendships as an Adult by Lane Moore is a memoir and self-help book published in 2023. It's a hopeful, heartbreaking, encouraging, and funny read.

When I started reading it, I was not quite sure what to expect, but when Lane Moore started talking about Anne of Green Gables in the second chapter, I was compelled to read more. As someone who's always looking for kindred spirits like Anne Shirley, I knew I shared that with the author.

I found the book compelling because it covers so many aspects of friendship that no one talks openly about like the grief and pain of losing friendships. Moore also talks about the influence of pop culture on our friendship ideals.

After finishing the book, I read a beautiful essay where Lane Moore talks about friendship and Anne of Green Gables called, "I Want a Bosom Friendship Like Anne Shirley and Diana Barry." She wrote the essay for Powell’s Books Blog on April 25, 2023. Until just a couple months ago, I used to live a few blocks from Powell’s. Moore's essay is really lovely, and I think any fan of Anne of Green Gables should read it.

Purchase and read books by Lane Moore:

You Will Find Your People by Lane Moore How to Be Alone by Lane Moore