The Bad and the Ugly
Homesick for Another World
by Ottessa Moshfegh
26.00 List Price
Ottessa Moshfegh always wants you to know when one of her characters is ugly, outside or in. The unnamed narrator of "Malibu," one of the stories in her first collection, Homesick for Another World, fixates on his pimples and demands money from his sick uncle, who has to wear a colostomy bag. "I still had the rash," he says at one point. "There was nothing I could do about it before my date that night with Terri. I lay on my bed and reached down to the floor and picked little crumbs and hairs out of the carpet." Terri, his blind date, turns out to be fat. "Her chest was large but looked like it would just sag and splay all over the place if it wasn't hoisted up into a bra." He imagines climbing on top of her will feel "like resting on a water bed." In "Nothing Ever Happens Here," a young man from Utah is traveling by bus to LA, where he hopes to become a star, when a fat man sits next to him: "I watched him pick out the little crumbs from the folds of his crotch and lick his hands." (Crumbs are everywhere in Moshfegh's world.)
In graceful sentences, Moshfegh lingers on tiny instances of the grotesque. (The effect can be unnerving. She once said of her own writing: "It's like seeing Kate Moss take a shit.") As well as being unattractive, her characters are often narcissistic, unkind, and plagued by strange preoccupations. There is Mr. Wu, a bachelor in a small Chinese town who's obsessed with the woman who works at the local arcade. After going to great lengths to get her phone number, he agonizes over what to text her and then opts for a cruel attack: "How does it feel to
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