Wishing to Be Somebody Else

Homesick for Another World

Ottessa Moshfegh

Let’s face it. Nobody can be happy with their life, and even life in general, every minute of every day. You have permission to be unhappy, to have periods of melancholia. Wish you were somewhere else, or somebody else when you fall into a funk. Nothing wrong or unhealthy with any of this. But, divorce yourself from the present, obsess on what might have been, what your life really should be as opposed to what it is, carry it to the most extreme conclusion, as the characters in the final story, “A Better Place,” in Moshfegh’s collection do, and my friend, you have a serious problem. You might be a candidate for this collection of stories about dissatisfied people yearning for another world, a world, unfortunately, that doesn’t exist. If you consider yourself among the normal, you might find peeking into these fourteen lives and situations interesting. For, really, how weird can people be? Mighty weird in Moshfegh’s imagination.

The writing here can be riveting. The descriptions of ugliness and ugly features prove as fascinating as they are off putting. And as individual stories taken one or two at a time over time, they certainly can be intriguing and thoughtful. However, when gathered into a collection, they suffer from a sameness and dreariness, all sounding like the other, losing the uniqueness they probably did have when presented individually in the various publications in which they appeared previously. So, to enhance your enjoyment, or maybe to yank any pleasure from these stories, you might do best to read them at a pace of one or two a week. And prepare yourself to face up to not so much the dark side of life but its disappointment reduced down into a bunch of bitter drops, not so much seasoning, more like poison against the human spirit. w/c