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

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Has anyone actually enjoyed reading Eileen?

I wish I could like it more or even like it at all because Ottessa Moshfegh writes really well but I've read more than half-way through her novel, Eileen, and I can't go any more pages in this chornicle of seriously depressed 24-year-old woman yearning to hop in a car and escape from her dreary life in a Massachusetts coastal town. I can't take one more page of serious alcohol abuse, vomiting, shitting, and just plain misery, sorry. There are other novels about depressed protagonists that don't push us so far into the physical depravity, and even when they do they're more readable than this one - because for 130 or so pages nothing has really happened. The eponymous Eileen is exactly in the same dark predicament by the mid-point of the novel as she was at the outset. The novel chronicles one week in the narrator's life (she's looking back at that week as a near-80-year-old, so we know she survived and there are hints that she has lived her life in a different city and perhaps under a different name - so far we know nothing about her life after age 24, however), but for god's sake it should be an eventful week, right? And maybe it is, maybe by the end of the book she hops in a car and leaves town, but it's taking too long for anything to happen. At about the half-way point, however, there is one development: a beautiful young woman comes to work in the youth prison where Eileen has a dreary desk job, and for some as yet unexplained reason this beautiful woman take a great interest - social? sexual? something else? - in Eileen, invites her out for drinks, they go to a working-class bar, dance, get seriously drunk. I am a little curious about the woman's motives and what role she will play in turning around Eileen's life, but not curious enough to read more about hangovers and misery. I see that many critics have greatly admired this novel, but has anyone actually enjoyed reading it?

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