In Bed for a Year

There will be a book recommendation in this post, but first a few words about Ocean’s 8. I would not go see any Batman-movie in winter. I suppose many people would not, hence a new Batman was always released around the end of a school-year. Somehow films like Batman make more sense in the summer. 

I can’t remember whether the Ocean’s male series were released in the springtime or not, but whatever the case might have been, Ocean’s 8 is your definitive summer movie. It’s fun and fast-paced and has lots of high-profile cameos (Anna Wintour watching a Roger Federer game on her iPad – how meta!) and fabulous outfits. Soundtrack is good and the set of characters a carefully calculated, but entertaining, bunch.

The only thing I took slight issue with was the amount of botox. The botulin cup had literally runneth many times over on the set of Ocean’s 8, which I consider to be highly unnecessary, but what do I know. So if you don’t mind botox, and even if you do, and are in for 1h 50mins of carefully crafted all-female entertainment, you should probably see the film. 

Then onto the book. It’s by Ottessa Moshfegh and it’s called My Year of Rest and Relaxation. It is brilliant, and if you had to choose whether to watch Ocean’s 8 or read the book this summer, you must absolutely read the book. 

It is New York City in year 2000 and a 24 year-old WASP who lives off her dead parents’ inheritance decides to give it all a heave-ho and go to sleep for a year. She finds a psychoanalyst who prescribes her a mind-numbing cocktail of uppers, downers and everything in between to help her reach narcotic hibernation for the next months. In addition to her shrink, the only human contacts the protagonist has are the Egyptians serving her coffee outside her building, her friend Reva who every now and then comes to see her in her apartment, usually already drunk herself, and the on-off older Wall Street boyfriend Trevor.

That’s pretty much the plot in its entirety. However the book is disturbingly good, because obviously there are so many ways to read the protagonist’s story (she’s not named in the book). 9/11 happens towards the end of the book, and to me that was the definition of the story – that’s when America woke up from its collective medicated lull and semi-obsessive narcissism.

There’s the feminist way of reading the story: can a woman just let everything go and not care? Throw away all the privilege and head-start that money and good looks and education would give and go on a semi-autistically planned self-destruct instead? Is a female anti-heroine, who lets her Upper East Side apartment fill up with uneaten pizza and waste she accumulates by shopping online during her blackouts (after coming to following yet another drugged blackout, she finds out she’s been out shopping for new underwear and had also gotten her pubes waxed) the ultimate antidote to the culture of obsessive self-care?

There is the societal criticism way of looking at it: given the pre-financial crisis madness, wouldn’t abandoning the hamster’s wheel have been exactly the right thing to do for many of us? And of course the exaggeration of the narrator’s drug intake can be read as criticism towards people’s excessive self-medication today. 

I guarantee you will mull over these questions when you read the book. Very few answers are given, but some of the narrator’s comments are telling, such as “I thought life would be more tolerable if my brain were slower to condemn the world around me“. Boom. Had me there. 

I haven’t read Moshfegh’s first novel Eileen, but will definitely do. My Year of Rest and Relaxation is an absolute joy – it is obviously very dark, but also supremely funny. You will like it. Moshfegh is an artist.

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