Follow by Email


A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A seriously depressed narrator in a much-lauded novel - Eileen

Ottessa Moshfegh's debut novel, Eileen (2015), created a real stir as a finalist for both the Man Booker and the NBCC fiction awards, quite a feat for any novel let alone a first. Anyone will see from the first paragraphs that Moshfegh is a clear, precise, and observant writer, as she develops the life story of the eponymous Eileen (Dunlop). ED narrates the story from the present - we don't know, yet, her current whereabouts nor even her current name - looking back at the pivotal moment in her life, when she made a clean break with her past and began a new existence. These events occurred in 1964, when Eileen was 24 years old - and the narrative begins at that period. Eileen is a seriously, seriously depressed young woman: she has a poor self-image bordering on body dysmorphia diagnosis; she has a dull job in the office at a detention center for youth (a teenager prison, she recognizes) where he co-workers are cold and dismissive; her mother died 5 years back and she lives with her father, a former police officer who alcoholic and (mentally) abusive; shall I go on? This is not a cheerful book, and not helped by its mid-winter setting in a forlorn NE coastal town - seemingly on the Boston North Shore? Sometimes, unfortunately, darkness can be seen as high literary art (whereas an upbeat story, if you can find one, can be dismissed as light comedy or less); do I really want to read more of this downbeat narrative, that even gets downbeat enough to include a detailed section of Eileen's digestive problems and bowel movement? I wouldn't, except that there is a promised transformation; she is preparing to make a break and begin a new life (talking about running off to NYC - Why not Boston. Why does so much literary fiction find its locus in NYC? Because that's where editors, agents, publishers, and therefore writers, live and thrive). One of the things keeping E in her home town is her crush on the James Dean-like prison guard who gives her absolutely no attention; my guess? - one of the big reveals that will send her on her journey out of town will be that she learns that the guard, Randy, is homosexual.

No comments:

Post a Comment