Title: My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Author: Ottessa Moshfegh
Pub date: 2018
In My Year of Rest and Relaxation, our intrepid heroine daily takes enough psychotropic drugs to numb a small nation, lays on the couch, watches a lot of videotapes (it’s the year 2000), occasionally shuffles down to her local bodega for a few coffees, all the while she contemplates studiously the status of her life, with the wish to eventually emerge reborn from her sleep, and then tries to suppress her desire to live in society like an uncontrolled fire.
While we are voyeurs to the daily idiom of our narrator’s life, it gets repetitive. Quickly. You could have cut 150 pages from the book, roughly the amount of time she spends laying on the couch and popping pills, and get, more or less, the same story. The sheer amount of feelings she is swallowing is impressive. A veritable who’s who of drugs culled from a pocket drug guide and the DSM-V. To the layperson, the amount of meds listed is breathtaking but from the view of someone who is on psychotropic drugs herself, I began to wonder, 50 pages in, “Why isn’t she dead yet? She should be dead.” I’m on the highest dosage of several the drugs our heroine is on and the interactions can be deadly. Yes, the heroine’s relationship with the easy pen and pad of the quack psychiatrist an almost solid argument of Munchausen Syndrome but c’mon here. However, you could seriously argue, the point of these actions, in the end, is not self-destruction; she does not want to die. She just wants to sleep.
I went home and went to sleep. Outside of the occasional irritation, I had no nightmares, no passions, no desires, no great pains.
Our heroine is an unreliable narrator, her blackouts are mentioned but not expanded on which is something I would have really like to have seen examined.
Despite the few flaws, I would recommend My Year of Rest and Relaxation because it is a mediation of the intersection of feminity, mental health, pop culture, and self-reflection as well as self-loathing. The heroine delivers deadpan commentary on such things and yet there is the pain to her observations, one that anyone simply breathing in current climes would and could relate to even though the book takes place 2000 and cumulates with 9/11. Our heroine is not vapid or vacuous as her barbed commentary and brutal and keen observations on the world and people around her when she’s conscious, is extraordinary. It is not, however, for the faint of heart as on one hand, you want to love her like her friend Reva (who is vacuous and vapid and self-obsessed), but knowing our narrator would tell us to eff right off, like she often tells Reva, and somehow, we’d be the better for it.