The B&N Podcast: Ottessa Moshfegh on the Appeal of Yesterday’s News

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

With her 2015 novel Eileen, the writer Ottessa Moshfegh married brooding suspense and dark humor in a story that drew readers into the heart of a disturbingly arresting mystery. That book was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. 2018 brought Moshfegh’s critically acclaimed bestseller My Year of Rest and Relaxation, in which the story of a young woman’s unorthodox plan for self-care is the occasion for a surprising, brilliantly funny look at our anxious new century. Moshfegh joined us in this episode on the occasion of a new paperback edition of her first book, an award-winning novella titled McGlue, after the Massachusetts-born century sailor at its heart. His troubled story, Moshfegh says, came to her almost immediately when she stumbled upon a headline in a 19th century newspaper in a library archive. In this episode, she talks about the sources of her fiction and how late nights watching comedians on television may be one source for her razor-sharp sense of humor.

The debut novella from one of contemporary fiction’s most exciting young voices, now in a new edition.

Salem, Massachusetts, 1851: McGlue is in the hold, still too drunk to be sure of name or situation or orientation–he may have killed a man. That man may have been his best friend. Intolerable memory accompanies sobriety. A-sail on the high seas of literary tradition, Ottessa Moshfegh gives us a nasty heartless blackguard on a knife-sharp voyage through the fogs of recollection.

They said I’ve done something wrong? . . . And they’ve just left me down here to starve. They’ll see this inanition and be so damned they’ll fall to my feet and pass up hot cross buns slathered in fresh butter and beg I forgive them. All of them . . . : the entire world one by one. Like a good priest I’ll pat their heads and nod. I’ll dunk my skull into a barrel of gin.

See more books by Ottessa Moshfegh.

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Author photo of Ottessa Moshfegh (c) Krystal Griffiths.