Episode 532 — Ottessa Moshfegh | Transcript


Air date: July 11, 2018


[00:56] Hello, hey everybody. Hi, how’s it going? This is the Otherppl podcast. Welcome to the Otherppl show. I’m Brad Listi. I’m in Los Angeles. It’s on fire. The city is on fire. It’s smoky. It’s hot. It’s dangerous. It’s summertime. It’s a hundred and twenty degrees. It’s a hundred degrees at night. There’s a hot wind blowing. It smells like fire. It’s like a blowdryer on your face at night. It’s crazy. The Griffith Park Observatory as we speak is almost in flames. I think the LA fire department has it under control, but it came very close and it would’ve been a heartbreaker, because it’s one of my favorite places in the city. 

[01:31] It’s a beautiful spot. It figures I think into the movie Rebel Without a Cause. Isn’t that right? Isn’t there a scene? Isn’t there like a fight scene? James Dean up there. I want to say Dennis Hopper appears in that scene almost like as an extra or in a bit role. It was one of his earliest parts. I think I have that right. Anyway, I have Ottessa Moshfegh on the program today. I’m very pleased about this. I’ve been wanting to talk to her for a while now. Over the past few years, she’s had an incredible run of success in publishing. 

[02:03] I think one of the better runs of success for any young writer working in the United States of America. In 2014, she published a novella called McGlue. It won the Fence Modern Prize. It won The Believer Book Award. And then in 2015, she published her breakout novel, Eileen. That was published by Penguin Press and it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It won the PEN/ Hemingway Award. I think it was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She then published Homesick for Another World, an acclaimed story collection and a Story Prize finalist. 

[2:41] And what am I missing? I mean all of this within the last four or five years. Incredible. So, a lot to talk about with her. She has a new novel out. Also on Penguin Press called My Year of Rest and Relaxation. She was nice enough to come over and talk with me shortly before leaving for her big book tour. So, let’s get to it. This is my conversation with Ottessa Moshfegh and her new novel, one more time, is called My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

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[03:13] Ottessa Moshfegh: And life gets boring when you’re only living one way for too long. 

BL: Or when you’re like super self-focused. 

OM: Yeah. I mean actually I don’t think my life ever really was boring, but too much time in isolation. I mean, I don’t know. I mean I don’t regret anything. You know? Like, if I had never met Luke, my life would be something else and I might be happy to have it, but shit happens. 

[03:39] BL: Right. [laughs] Yeah. I was just reading something like yesterday and it was one of these moments where I’m reading and I’m sort of nodding and it’s kind of one of these Buddhist books and the guy is like, you know, you can’t really judge an event as being good or bad unless you have like cosmic perspective. It was that sort of train of thought. And I was like, yeah, ‘cause like who knows, you know? Maybe something that seems horrible now in the grand scheme of things might be net positive.

OM: Right.

[04:04] BL: But then I started thinking about like truly horrible things that happened on this planet, I started to doubt that line of thinking. Like, how could you ever say like a Holocaust is…”Oh, who knows?” You know, it seems like objectively horrible. 

OM: Well, it’s really politically incorrect to have that kind of cosmic thinking about genocide. Right? But in the bigger picture, you know, if we look at the life of the human race. Makes sense. Like there’s been genocide from the beginning. I mean, I don’t really know if that’s true but…

[04:39] BL: Warring factions. 

OM: I mean we’re a violent animal and we’re very easily perverted by our own greed and power. So, of course there’s going to be some terrible shit that we do to each other and not that that makes me happy, but I can also kind of accept it. 

[05:05] I mean maybe that’s…maybe I’m wrong to feel so immoral, and you know people will think that I’m a bad person or something, but I don’t feel like I can really exist in the binary of this is good and this is bad without becoming kind of fascistic about everything. 

[05:30] And, I don’t know, if I’m gonna accept one thing, I kind of have to accept everything. So, and who am I to say what’s wrong? I don’t know. I was just watching. I had an interesting like day yesterday of what I ingested in terms of media. For some reason, I started watching the footage from the Paris terrorist attacks a couple years ago. 

[06:07] BL: The one at the rock concert? 

OM: Yeah. There’s one at the club. There were some explosions around a soccer stadium. And then there was this street corner that got shot at where people were drinking and eating at these two restaurants, like a restaurant and a bar.

[06:25] BL: Was this the Netflix documentary about it? Because they just released one.

OM: You know, it was, but it was boring and my instinct is to just go look for the YouTube videos [laughs] and I had watched them all when that happened. And I was actually supposed to go to Paris soon after that happened and ended up canceling that trip and then I was supposed to have a residency in Paris that I ended up canceling too. 

[06:53] So, I don’t know, I mean…This is…Now, that I’m thinking about why I’m bringing this up in the context of like karmic amorality. Is that the word? But, yeah. If that terrorist attack hadn’t happened…This is how selfish my thinking has to be sometimes in order to be like, “I can live on a planet where people go around shooting other people.” If that hadn’t happened, I would have gone to Paris. And then my life wouldn’t have happened the way that it is now, you know. I would be different. Maybe I would’ve gone to Paris and like stepped in front of a truck. I don’t know. 

BL: Yeah.

[07:35] OM: So it isn’t like, “Oh, thank God there was that terrorist attack, because my life is great now.” It’s like, no. There’s a cause and effect of everything and you have to appreciate that in some way. 

BL: And accept…

OM: Yeah. But, I don’t know, I mean, this all could be total bullshit. 

BL: [laughs] Yeah, I struggle with it. Like last night I was walking my dog and it was like ten o’clock at night, and it was like ninety-seven degrees and the wind was blowing. It was like this hot, sort of like a convection oven feeling.

[08:05] OM: Yeah, last night was crazy.

BL: Yeah, and I was just like, I just got kind of gloomy about the state of the world and the future of humanity, the world that my kids are going to…you know, all these thoughts kind of go through your head. Like what are we going to leave them? What is happening with the climate? All that sort of train of thought. And then I was thinking about like the species like broadly and what it would take for us to maybe wake up from the trance that we tend to live in and like the violence that you were talking about earlier, those kinds of baser instincts.

[08:34] Like is there some sort of like massive evolutionary catastrophe that’s going to have to happen in order for human beings to maybe start behaving differently or being in the world differently? It’s a grim thought. It’s like, is that what it’s going to take? Like can’t we figure it out without something horrible happening? 

OM: I think a lot of people are asking that question honestly, Brad. Like a lot of people I talk to, they’re like, “What’s going to happen?” Like this world is so…You can swear on this podcast, right?

BL: Yeah, yeah.

[09:06] OM: Like this world is so fucked up. Like is the way to save it like for just humans to just completely self-destruct? Like do we need a World War III, you know? Does America need to fall? I mean all that kind of stuff. Does the planet need to die, you know, for this to be somehow over? But…

BL: I feel like apocalyptic thinking has been happening for millennia.

[09:36] OM: Maybe.

BL: But the stakes are higher now.

OM: I think that though we’ve thought ourselves into this box, right? Where like we think we have all this knowledge and information, because we’re good scientists or whatever, but actually we don’t know shit and we live in a really, most of us live in a really superficial world, where we like are born, go to school so that we can get a job, so we can make money to pay for our life, and then we die. 

BL: [laughs]

[10:09] And where is the evolution in that? I mean, we’ve just been sustaining this capitalist, consumerist society. I mean I think it’s awesome that people are asking this question. Is it going to take a, you know, worldwide calamity for shit to get better? And usually, it seems like looking at history, that’s one way that it happens. Like, well, we suffer and then we grow. I mean pain is a touchstone for growth. Blah blah blah blah blah.

[10:44] But, I mean, there has to be another way. There has to be another way. And, you know, to tell you more about the media I consumed yesterday. After I watched the footage of the terrorist attack in Paris, which is just like so fucking disturbing and so sad, I went to see that new documentary about Mr. Rogers. 

BL: Oh, you did?

OM: Yeah. 

BL: I was trying to get a friend of mine to go with me, he’s like, “I don’t want to see that.” And I was like, “Really?” I thought, it’s exactly the kind of movie I want to see. 

[11:13] OM: What’s your friend’s problem? 

BL: I don’t know, you know. What does he want to go see? He likes to go to horror movies. 

OM: Oh, then he really needs to see this movie. It’s amazing. I mean, I’m not going to say it’s an amazing documentary, but he was amazing and his project, and how much he cared about children and this question that you have of: What are we leaving for our children? 

[11:39] I mean, I don’t want to give it away. I went with a really close friend of mine and she cried the whole time and I didn’t and it reminded me that I was a really stoic child. And, you know, I grew up watching Mister Rogers and his songs and I recognize that I didn’t like a lot of the show, because when he went into that fantasy world where there was the king, I was scared of that king. Like that king made me feel bad.

[12:15] BL: Is the king a puppet?

OM: Yeah. 

BL: Okay. 

OM: So I missed out on a lot of the meaning of what was going in that show. So it was really cool to see the documentary as an adult and see that this guy, Fred Rogers was really…It seemed like his project was working on two levels. I mean, one, he’s kind of like a prophet in a way and like a prophet for children. I mean, like teaching children how to be self-accepting and express their feelings and have feelings, and like stuff that’s the absolute opposite of what everything else on TV is telling us to do. I mean, everything else on TV is like act fake, look perfect…

[13:02] BL: Buy shit.

OM: Yeah. Buy shit. Be rich. I mean this guy was like, “I love you just the way you are.” 

BL: He was so kind. 

OM: He was so kind and really radical. When you look at what he was actually doing. And then on another level, I mean I think this is what was cool about seeing the documentary and all the behind the scenes interviews with people who were close to Mr. Rogers, was that it also seemed like it was a simulacrum, simulay-crum, how do you say that word? 

BL: Simulacrum. [laughs]

OM: Simulacrum of his own struggles with self-esteem and that each character was sort of a part of him. 

[13:45] I don’t know it was just…it was really touching, it made me want to be a nicer person. A nicer person in that, you know, sometimes my response to people is just immediately defensive. Like, oh, I meet you, I don’t know what’s going on and in your interiority, but I’m just going to assume that you’re judging me…

BL: Right.

OM: And that you’re an asshole so I’m gonna be defensive and cold and not let you in, because I don’t want to feel vulnerable and I don’t trust you. 

BL: Yeah.

OM: And I was watching the documentary and I was thinking like, okay, I know that that’s something that I do, you know like socially. 

[14:24] It’s hard for me to want to trust people. And I don’t think that I’m crazy, you know, to have that part of my personality. A lot of people can be assholes. And like, you know, there’s a lot of examples I can point to. Like, “Well see, I shouldn’t have trusted that person.” You know, so it’s a learned behavior. But the message that Mr. Rogers had about…is, you know, straight up kindness. 

[14:58] And…having an open heart to others so that your heart can be also open to you was…made me think that I should maybe just calm down. 

BL: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah. Like, there’s a simplifying aspect to like kindness. Like I can get really lost in the weeds on philosophy. You know, it’s very easy to tie yourself in knots over that stuff, but when someone’s just like, “Hey, you know, be kinder to other people. Be kinder to yourself.” And then they actually embody that. 

[15:35] That’s the important thing is he was authentic. Like not that he didn’t have his low moments and his flaws, just like any human being. I don’t wanna like…I think it gets dangerous to sort of deify. But he, by all accounts, was genuinely a sweetheart and really tried to live that and that’s inspiring. And when we talk about, or we go back to talking about, you know, what’s needed for this planet and for this species in order for us to right the ship a little bit and live in a saner way, it’s like an evolution in consciousness. 

[16:07] That’s really what it is. And what is going to take to foment that, you know? Maybe we need like a Mr. Rogers, you know, somebody who can speak to us and get to us. I think getting to people when they’re young is a good idea. 

OM: And using television. I mean, like that show would fail miserably now, I think. I mean, it was on PBS, but…

[16:38] BL: It was also on at a time, I guess cable was just dawning, but the dial was a lot more constricted.

OM: Right.

BL: You know, there weren’t seven million things to watch. So, I remember it was like Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Mister Rogers. If I’m being honest as a kid, Mister Rogers was like my least favorite. I was a little bored. I always liked to guess what color sweater he was going to pick out of the closet. Like, what is the cardigan going to be? I didn’t hate it. But I also feel a little poisoned, ‘cause I can remember one of my neighbor’s moms. She was the mom that we could call like ‘Linda.’

[17:12] You know, it wasn’t like “Mrs.” You know, we called her Linda. And she was like, “Mr. Rogers is a…he’s a creep, I don’t let my kid watch that.” She sort of like…It was sort of like one of these cynical views. You know, “What’s this guy in a cardigan doing?” 

OM: Right.

BL: But I heard that as a kid and the fact I remember it now means it must have had an impact on my view of the show. 

OM: Sure.

BL: But that’s…you know, I realize that and my thoughts have now shifted, like I definitely think he was a good soul. 

[17:41] OM: Yeah. I mean…I think my thoughts shifted after seeing this documentary. Like if you had asked me like, “What’s Mr. Roger’s deal?”, like the day before yesterday, I would’ve been like, “Eh.” I don’t know, because so many images that we have in media now about men who are supposed to be altruistic, turns out they’re doing really fucked up shit in private. So, yeah. Like we have this thing bred into our culture. Like, distrust men expressing kindness and compassion, because they’re probably fucking children, you know? 

[18:23] BL: [laughs] Right. Well, that’s the truth. We have so many examples. It’s like especially if somebody is outwardly advocating. I think of Bill Cosby, who was always Mr. Jello-Pudding-Pops and I-love-kids and like tuck-your-shirt-in and get-your-education, and then it’s like, oh, you know, there’s a hypocrite. Or you have…I mean, the list goes on. But I feel like in the last couple years, you’ve seen a lot more dominoes start to fall and there’s been like a real…I don’t know…coming to light of the hypocrisy and like the darkness below the surface that feels unprecedented to me. 

[18:58] OM: What do you think the long-term effects of this will be? 

BL: I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I hope that there’s a shift in behavior that’s positive. I hope that there’s an assertion of strength and power on the part of decent people and vulnerable people, especially women, children, minority groups that, you know, recalibrates things in terms of balance, but I can’t like sit here and tell you with confidence that I know how it’s going to shake out. Like I don’t know.

OM: Right.

[19:43] And I also think that there is some danger to…like to play the other side of it, and this is an unpopular thought, but one that I have is that, you know, there’s a lot of convictions of people, and by convictions I don’t mean strongly held beliefs, I mean like in the legal sense, like people are getting tried and convicted very quickly and usually it happens on social media, there’s an accusation and then there’s just this banishment and there’s this mass assumption of guilt that happens so quickly that it does make my head spin a little bit. 

[20:17] And I worry about that. I worry about how that might manifest. Not necessarily…I mean, I worry about it broadly. I worry about it most politically. And I worry about it on the Left and I think of it in a longer term sense, you know. There’s something fascistic about it. Just like…I don’t know I just used the word fascistic. I don’t know if that’s the right word.

[20:46] OM: I think you’re spot on. 

BL: Okay. ‘Cause it just…Okay. Well, then I am. [laughs] So it’s complicated. And  think that maybe the impulse is to wanna make things simple, you know, especially when it comes to matters of justice. It’s like, “Right. Wrong.” Just like what we were talking about. Right. Wrong. Black. White. Good. Bad. You know and I tend to live in a world of gray. And it can be a little bit disorienting for me to have those thoughts and feelings and confusions, but also feel like to express them, especially in a public forum, like social media, it can be a little dangerous, because you’re like, “Oh, god. Do I even want to invite this?” 

[21:24] ‘cause if you stick your neck out and like fumble with your words trying to express this confusion, you can get slapped down pretty quickly. And then you just have this chaos and stress in your life that, you know, do I really need that? But, [laughs] if you don’t make the effort to express that, then I think it cheapens the discourse. You have a lot of people…It’s a silencing, you know and you have this…You basically leave the field to those who might have the other line of thinking and I think the discourse is less rich, you know. There’s less freedom of thought. 

[21:57] OM: Yeah. I mean I feel like the loudest voices are not the ones that are…not necessarily the most subtle or thoughtful. I feel like I’m in a bit of a privileged position around this topic to speak openly in the public, speak publicly about what I think you’re talking about without worrying that people are going to say I’m being, I don’t know, macho or…

[22:27] BL: Yeah. I’m like a white guy named Brad. Like I have a nice house. I’m like the worst. I’m not the worst, but I’m not in the position to be like picking up a megaphone and expounding about this, I feel like.

OM: Well, because you’ve probably been terrified of the backlash that might happen against you. I mean, I don’t blame you for being scared that people are going to come after you if you say something to disrupt them.

[23:00] BL: Yeah. Like one thing wrong…The problem is…or like, the irony is there’s so much agreement. I’m generally in favor of believing people when they say they’ve been victimized, definitely. You know what I’m saying? Like I’m on the side of the vulnerable and I like to think of myself as the champion of the underdog. Like that really is my orientation. It’s like old Christian Left stuff. You know, like the teachings of Jesus or any, you know, spiritual person of magnitude. I think there’s a ton of similarities and I respond to all that stuff, but I also believe in like a presumption of innocence. I believe in the necessity of evidence, you know. 

[23:45] OM: Yeah, I mean it’s funny that our social world is starting to look a lot like our legal system. And what worries me about that is, you know, this word “victim” is getting thrown around a lot and it seems like one way to be empowered is to tell everybody that somebody fucked with you.

BL: Well, okay. See, this is another complicated road to go down, but like I’m on social media a lot, which I know you are not. Right?

[24:19] OM: Right. 

BL: So, I’m on it way too much. Just Twitter, but that’s my news source, that’s how I aggregate news. I actually find it useful, but it’s also toxic and debilitating. 

OM: Sure.

BL: And what I find based on watching how Twitter responds to these stories is that there is obviously an incentive structure created, especially in social media, to present yourself like this. 

[24:51] You know, to tell stories like these, because you get a lot of empathy and support and clicks and favorites and retweets. You get that dopamine shot. And so it’s like two things are true, you know. Whilte it’s definitely true that like it is important if you have been victimized to speak out and stand up for yourself and hold those accountable. It’s also true that there is an incentive structure that is probably drawing in people who are…You know, there’s some sort of hole or emotional need for attention or solace, you know, and that’s also true. 

[25:31] Now, you can start to parse it in terms of percentages. Like what percentage of people are legitimate? And what percentage of people are maybe trying to bandage some emotional need? You know? I don’t know. But this is where I get into the gray area, you know. So I could talk for hours on topics like these, but one of the things you said about Mr. Rogers that will sort of bring us back to your creative work and your latest book, is this idea of his life project and how he had like a real sense of mission, and I think you have a real sense of mission that I find like super inspiring and I think it’s somewhat rare to be as clear as you are and as confident as you are about what you are doing creatively. Am I misapprehending that? 

[26:22] OM: No. I mean, I don’t know if it’s really that rare. I think a lot of people get maybe ashamed or insecure about their own self-confidence, because it’s not really…although we’re sort of in this era of self-esteem, actually being truly confident, especially it seems like in this era of Twitter is something that’s kind of tacky and puts you at risk for being attacked. 

[26:58] So I think maybe there’re a lot of other confident writers out there who feel exactly the way that I do about their creative projects. They’re just not as vocal about it, or, no, maybe they’re more humble or…

BL: Have you always been this way? Is it something you had to like work to arrive at, or is it something that you just feel like you are blessed with? 

OM: It feels like…I mean, I don’t know if I was born with this kind of certainty, but I’ve never felt like I might not be good enough, or anything, as a writer. 

[27:42] Like, “Am I good enough? Are people going to like me?” It’s never been my concern. I think a big part of this is having grown up in the classical music world. And I wasn’t really in it. My parents were teachers. My aunt was in the orchestra. 

BL: Your parents are both like immigrants, musicians, who came to the United States as like political asylum? Correct? 

[28:14] OM: They weren’t asylum seekers, but they were forced to leave. 

BL: Okay. 

OM: They were living in Iran during the revolution. So, I was really immersed from a young age in the idea that life’s purpose is creative. Like the purpose of a life is to be creative, whether that’s through art or to create change or to create love or whatever. And I also started like studying classical music when I was like five, you know, and had an appreciation for stuff that seems inhuman. 

[28:55] Like how did a human being write this concerto, you know? Or like, going to the symphony, like, “How is this…Did a real person do this?” So, I had a real appreciation for the awe and genius that is, you know, in great art, I mean, art that I love. But it also made…learning music made me understand that the way to get there is to work really hard, you know, like nobody just lucks into it. 

[29:26] I mean, maybe that’s a popular story when we like look at prodigies. Like we think Mozart could just, you know, create all this stuff, but the truth is his dad was pushing him really hard from a young age to practice and learn and study and all this stuff like…

BL: That’s what I always say about prodigies. They just started earlier.

OM: I mean, I definitely believe in talent. I mean, there’s no question. But I mean, there’s talent and then there’s effort. I mean, you need both. 

[30:00] And I…I just don’t question the talent part. I mean, I can be really hard on myself in the effort part. And I am probably overshooting, you know, like in terms of discipline and…

BL: So let’s talk about what your actual like schedule…Like a lot of my listeners are writers or aspiring writers. So, like, when you talk about how hard you’re working, what does that mean? Are you up at like four in the morning?

[30:28] OM: No. I mean, I have a friend who does that. When I was working on My Year of Rest and Relaxation I basically, I mean, A, I barely read anything. B, I didn’t go anywhere for fun. C…

BL: You mean travel? You mean, like, “I didn’t go out to eat”? Like what do you mean? How austere? 

OM: Yeah, I mean like, I rarely took like a couple of hours out of the day to go be frivolous. And writing for me isn’t always like sitting with my computer and typing. There’s a lot of meditating, and like walking meditation, and thinking and you know…

[31:11] BL: So, actual seated meditation? 

OM: Mm, sometimes. 

BL: And then walking meditation? 

OM: Yeah. I mean, I’m using formal terms for something that’s just me living my day, you know?

BL: Oh, okay.

OM: You know, putzing around. So I was really living in this novel for like a year and a half with very little else going on. And I was completely obsessed with it. And I would make schedules for myself, like, “Okay. You know, let’s look at the month and let’s break it down by weeks; and let’s break it down by a day; and let’s break it down by hour.” 

[31:49] I mean, not like I had page count goals or anything like that, but I had a system where I was seeking to understand the project and…

BL: And holding yourself accountable? 

OM: Yeah. I mean, I think that when you’re trying to do something, when you’re trying to build something from scratch, like you don’t even have materials. I mean, all I have is the English language, right? I mean, I don’t know these people. They’re not real. I have to make this entire story up. 

[32:21] It can feel really daunting. So having these little mind games that I play with myself. To be like, okay, if I can get to this point by December then I’ll know I’m in the right place.

BL: Do you outline? 

OM: In this book, I outlined at a couple of points, but those outlines ultimately failed. I found that…what I learned in this book was that if I try to exert too much pressure on it it starts to fall apart. 

[32:57] And that actually it needed a pretty light touch plot wise. I mean obviously, it’s about a woman who doesn’t leave her apartment. But, it was a book that sort of revealed itself to me in a way that was very frustrating, because I wanted to be working really hard and I ended up overworking, finding myself having written way off the path of the story, deleting hundreds of pages like a couple of times, backtracking, looking at where I came from, who…like what is this book? 

[33:31] So I end up having, eventually, just to surrender to what was already there. And then when I read up until the point where I had gone off the path, I saw that the book was telling me exactly what to do. I just needed to…see it and do it.

BL: How did you see it? You just like maybe took a little bit of time away and then came back and reread it and were like, “Oh.”…Or did somebody help point that out to you?

[33:54] OM: I just thought about it deeply. I mean, you know? The way that you might think about if you were having trouble in your romantic relationship. You know, like you would obsess about it and be analytical and think about it from the other person’s perspective. And be like, “What does this mean? You know, let me look at my whole life. Like how does this fit in? How do I need to change? Where are the places I need to grow?” That’s the way I would look at the book, you know. And the nice thing about a book is that you can finish it. And move on, you know. 

BL: Right. Wash your hands. Never think about it again.

[34:29] OM: Right. And it’s something to celebrate as an ending, instead of like, you know, mourning the death of someone or…yeah. 

BL: Did you know the end when you start? Is that a common thread from book to book? Like do you have to have some sort of finish line in mind in order to get started and feel like you have a real like sense of direction? 

OM: Yeah. Not from the first line, but when I’m in it, like once I understand, like, “Okay I’ve developed the story to a certain point, I get the premise,” usually the end like whether it’s…it’s usually an image, and that comes to me pretty early on in the writing. 

[35:05] And that’s like you know, that always feels like a blessing. And sometimes, I don’t even understand it.  

BL: But you honor it? 

OM: Yeah.

BL: You know it when it’s there?

OM: Yeah. 

BL: And what about starting? Like do you tend to start with an image too? Like how do you get an idea for a book? Has there been like a common thread from work to work or is it different?

OM: It’s always different. It’s always different. I mean, McGlue came from an 1850 article…

BL: Oh, right. 

OM: In a newspaper. Eileen came from…

[35:31] BL: That’s sort of magical.

OM: Oh, that was a total gift from God.

BL: Yeah. Can you explain that? Just so people know. Because I think people listening might not have context. Like you were at Brown…

OM: Yeah I was at Brown and I was just sort of, I don’t know, looking, like scrolling through their archive of periodicals from the mid-19th century in New England, and I’m from New England so it was all interesting to me. 

[35:58] BL: But just for the hell of it you were doing it?

OM: Just for the hell of it. I spent a lot of time at the library working. I don’t even know.

BL: This was your MFA? 

OM: Yeah.

BL: Yeah. You just said that, I think?

OM: No, you said it, that I was at Brown. 

BL: Oh, I did, yeah. But for, so people listening know, you were there to get your MFA…

OM: Right. I was a student and with student access to the library you get to use their NexusLexus or whatever you call it. And, yeah, I just…I mean I’ve always been fascinated by like the history of New England. 

[36:36] It’s where I’m from. And it’s not a history that’s in my family story, so it’s different, it’s weird, and New England is a pretty fascinating place when you look at the beginning of the Europeans arriving there. They were totally nuts, you know? 

BL: Yeah, I’m reading…I’m about to finish this biography of Henry David Thoreau. And it’s like…He was one of the early naturalists and historians of the region, or whatever, but Margaret Fuller who helped to found The Dial, which was that literary magazine like the Transcendentalists. 

[37:09] There’s like this story that I didn’t…I guess I might have heard once or read once, but had forgotten about how she left and moved to Italy and married this like Count, or something like that. And then she was coming back over to visit family on a boat and just as the boat was approaching the shores of New England it ran into like really rough seas and capsized. And it was like horrible. 

[37:32] Like you know, the boat’s tipping, everyone’s going into the water. It’s freezing. People are drowning. And the worst part of the story is that there were all these people on the shore watching it happen and like nobody got into a lifeboat and then on top of it as like people’s belongings started like washing to the shore. They just like scavenged it and took it. And the boat was like three hundred yards off shore. It wasn’t like it was way out there. But it’s like such a haunting story. 

[37:58] Like to go back to like humanity, like, “Wow, that’s people for you, or certain people.” This boat is going under. Like Margaret Fuller like watched her like husband and children go under and then she just like threw herself in and you know. Horrible. So, anyway…

OM: Sounds like a good book. 

BL: But history of New England, McGlue, you were flipping through and basically read this, it was like a snapshot or a summary, right?

OM: It was a really just a like four or five line summary of a case that had been…a case of this guy named McGlue who had just been acquitted of murder and it included some details. 

[38:37] I mean that he had been acquitted on a count of murder. The person that he killed was named Mr. Johnson. The murder happened in the port of Zanzibar. They were…

BL: Where is that? 

OM: It’s in Tanzania?

BL: Okay. That sounds right.

OM: [laughs] I hope that’s true. I’ll feel like an idiot. And the reason he was acquitted was that he was found…I mean I think it was…It’s not a very important case, right? 

[39:10] But in the case, he’s acquitted because he was found to be out of his mind at the time that he committed this murder and he was out of his mind because he was in a black out drunk and had had brain damage or had major head trauma from having jumped off a moving train before he had gone off on this sea voyage. So, I mean, that was the whole story and it did feel like a gift. The book didn’t come at me all at once. It came through like a very narrow trickle, it was hard to do, but…

[39:48] BL: But something in you responded to it? Like I was reading about you and like you were a drinker and then got sober and were in AA and like went through the whole sobriety experience, so was that speaking to you? 

OM: Totally. Totally.

BL: It was a way for you to explore that stuff?

OM: It was a way for me to explore my darkest passions and wanting…It makes me think of this new novel too because it’s about a woman who wants to check out. I mean, that’s what McGlue wanted too. 

[40:20] I mean he wanted it desperately. To be drunk all the time.

BL: Right.

OM: I mean, I was never that kind of drinker. I mean I was never kind of like black out, I’ll-kill-someone-in-my-black-out drunk. But, you know, I am someone who has felt extremely stressed out by my own mind like basically my entire life. So, things like alcohol or, you know, name it. I’ve had to deal with how attractive those substances in whatever behavior…

BL: Just to turn it down? Or just to turn it off? 

[40:58] OM: I mean, just to make it different, you know. I mean, I can use TV for it too, you know. 

BL: Right. That’s a drug. 

OM: Yeah.

BL: I feel like your…like My Year of Rest and Relaxation, it sneaks up on you. And I feel like all of your books are about, like you said, wanting things to be different, reinvention of self, and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, the end of it is very moving. 

[41:29] And there’s a lot of uplift in the weirdest way. Like your books work on, they work on people in a weird way, because you’re willing to go into the darkness, and I speak from my own experience creatively trying to write where I’m trying to address dark things, but feeling suffocated by it, because I’m like, I’m a person who sort of wants there to be some funny. Like I don’t want to create art that is like mercilessly dark for people, that offers no oxygen. And yet I also don’t want to shy away from the very real existence of suffering. How do you do it? Like do you know? Can you articulate how you go into these dark places and find the light or the humor or make it breathable for readers? 

[42:16] OM: I don’t know. Everything is kinda dark. I don’t really know what people mean when they say that something isn’t dark. People are never like…When you say something is light, what you mean is it is frivolous and has no real meaning, right? 

[42:39] That it’s just fun, but it doesn’t matter. So…or maybe the counter to that would be heavy. The heavy connotes like something that’s a burden, that’s gonna weigh you down. That doesn’t sound very…It’s not something that inspires growth. It’s just something you’re gonna have to bear with. And dark is…you know, I think we’re all scared of the Devil blah blah blah, but like dark is where everything happens, you know. Dark…in the light of day people don’t… 

[43:15] That’s why it’s so crazy when someone gets shot in the middle of the day.  ‘Cause we’re like, “It was noon!” You know? But if it happens at night, you’re like, “Oh yeah, of course.” So everybody has to act right when they’re visible and I think fiction…I mean, I think I’m kinda splitting into saying two different things. But basically I just think darkness means interesting now. It just has kind of lost its true meaning. It doesn’t mean Dracula. You know? And it doesn’t mean Satan.

BL: It means reality.

[43:54] OM: Yeah, it just means reality. But and I think that’s why I fiction is…fiction whether it’s literature or a film or whatever medium it is…the interesting things are often dark. You know, comedy is often very, very dark. 

BL: Right.

OM: That’s where our feelings are complicated, is in the darkness. And that’s where, you know, there’s…all our privacy lives in the darkness. And when we share art, that privacy gets to be spoken to and somehow has an outlet for another life. The privacy is given more room, you know. And I think in that space art can be really moving. 

[44:43] BL: Yeah. If it’s rendered well. It is possible to write some really dark stuff that people just go, “Oof. This is just like, it’s too dark. It’s making me feel sad. There’s nothing redemptive about it,” or I don’t know. There’s not one way to do it, but it either works or it doesn’t. 

[45:03] OM: Yeah and I also, I think that’s really true. My mind instantly goes to Bret Easton Ellis when you talk about like well if a book is too dark and overwhelming in its darkness, like is like…the reader will disconnect from it…And I think Less than Zero is a book that I can point to as being like, that book is so brilliantly playing the line. 

[45:33] Like I feel like that book is like, I’m about, as I read it, and I reread it recently this year, I’m like I’m about to step out, like I’m about to bail, you know? And then it’s the darkness itself…I mean, I’m about to bail because I’m like who cares? 

BL: Right.

OM: Like this rich kid and his friends who, you know, live these meaningless lives, I mean like who cares, who cares, who cares, who cares, but then it’s the real darkness that’s like, “Oh finally something real.”

BL: Yeah.

[46:06] OM: You know? And I’m in and I’m flabbergasted by what’s happening to me emotionally like I actually can’t describe it to myself and that’s like so exciting when that happens in literature.

BL: He wrote that when he was like, what, twenty? Nineteen?

OM: Yeah. He was in college. 

BL: Yeah, that’s a pretty good book for a college kid. 

OM: Yeah, oh my god. It’s a pretty good book for anybody. 

BL: Anybody, yeah.

OM: Yeah. 

[46:31] BL: Did you ever read, I read The Informers? Is that the…like the connected stories? I mean I haven’t read his stuff in a long time, but I loved that book too. He’s great. And…

OM: His American Psycho was something that I held in my mind as I was writing My Year of Rest and Relaxation

BL: Interesting. ‘Cause, you know, it’s funny that you bring him up because I was thinking of him.

[46:55] I was talking to another female writer who wrote a New York book with a female protagonist that felt kind of like Bret-Easton-Ellisy, but from a female perspective and I don’t know, I didn’t want to make like a too cheap comparison, but like I could feel that in there. It’s a compliment.

OM: Oh, I mean, it’s an honor. [laughs] If somebody can see that. 

BL: But I also felt like…I don’t know, I feel like the end of the book is so great and different than Bret Easton Ellis in some way. Like it made me actually like emotional. [laughs] And I think there are moments like that in…and again I haven’t read his work in a long time and I read it when I was at a different stage in my life so maybe I would read it now and feel a similar emotion. 

[47:40] My memory is not awesome for like what’s on the page. I don’t know, the book to me, like if I were gonna diagnosis it, it just feels like a writer working through her characters to figure out, or to reaffirm, a sense of purpose as a creative person. 

[48:04] That was moving to me. Is that anywhere near accurate? [laughs] I mean that was the thread that I responded to anyway, you know. Like this like responding to other artists, thinking of herself as a human being in the world. I don’t know, it was life affirming. And that was…it just felt a little unexpected and it was really beautifully done. 

OM: Well, I’m glad. I mean, whatever reading that spoke to you that’s wonderful. 

[48:32] BL: [laughs] You’re like, I had no such intentions, but if that’s the experience you had…

OM: Well, I’m not really trying to manipulate you, you know. I was just following the character’s journey, but what moves me about the end of the book is that it reminds me that we don’t get to live that long and that it’s like, “Okay, my life is really short and the people that I love I really love them. I will miss them in some sense when I’m not here. 

[49:06] And that they are part of me. And that all of my fear and defensiveness and isolation that separates me from that love is such a shame, you know even though it might be necessary in some ways. I mean in retrospect I don’t think I’m going to be on my deathbed being like I wish I had spent more time alone.” 

BL: Like writing novels or. It’s interesting…

[49:36] OM: But wait, actually. I’m sure I’ll think I wish I could’ve written one more book, but not I wish I had spent more time alone. I mean that’s sort of the catch-22 about being a writer. 

BL: You need the solitude. 

OM: Yeah. 

BL: You can’t make art when things are super crazy. You need it to be kinda quiet and boring and isolated. But I get it, I mean I have a crazy family with like all kinds of demands. 

[50:02] Jobs, and you know. It’s like, the speed of life is really intense sometimes for me and I was listening to something yesterday. It was like a podcast and this woman is talking about how she was talking to a hospice worker, who had like, you know, shepherded many people as they have like passed away and she was talking about how the hospice workers hear a lot of people’s final thoughts, like regrets and so on, as they prepare for death. 

[50:32] And one of the most common refrains is like, “I wish I had been truer to myself.” “I wish that I had not tried to conform to the expectations of other people or the expectations of society so much.” “I wish I hadn’t been so afraid.” Because I think fear drives a lot of that sort of behavior. And so you hear that and you go, [gasps]. Like take stock. I’m almost forty-three. Like, clock’s ticking. It’s gonna go fast. Who knows? I could step in front of a truck tomorrow. 

[51:00] You know, it’s like that sort of thinking. And I was like, “Am I being true to myself?” Because I often fantasize about living a simpler life and a less hectic place, and yet I’m always like, “Where would I go?” Like I sort of like LA. It’s like this weird…I don’t know. It just feels kind of like a…there’s a beauty to it that I really respond to, like creative people, like the edge of the country, like wanting to…and I like the energy of it, but I’m also like, “Man, what if I lived like near some mountains in a house, a cheap place near a college?” You know? [laughs]

[51:36] And then it’s like well what is my truest self? Like what is my mission? What is my purpose? I guess is maybe the better way to put it. Do you have a sense, I mean you have a sense of that. You’re on this earth to write books, and make art, create, bring people a little bit of solace, and enjoyment. I mean like how do you articulate it to yourself? Like do you feel like you’re being true to yourself? 

[52:01] OM: I feel like it’s been kind of impossible to be true to myself until recently.

BL: Why? 

OM: Because I was stuck in self-loathing. I had a lot of self-loathing from like adolescence onward. And it took, you know, until my thirties to be like, “Oh, I was looking at myself in an incorrect way.” You know? But it was so, it was part of the way that my brain worked. 

[52:43] BL: Yeah, it’s like deep, like neural…

OM: Yeah. And it kept me safe in a lot of ways. I mean, it’s also sad to look back on my entire youth and be like, “Oh, why did I hate myself so much? Why did I hate my consciousness?

[53:02] You know, why did I always think that there was something wrong with me?” And I also…So there was that. And I also had a lot of rage, because I would often look around and be like, “Why is everybody acting like shit is okay. Like shit is not okay.” 

BL: Right.

OM: Like even in the most abstract level. How is it that we even fucking exist? How are we not all freaking out about it? Why aren’t we talking about it? 

[53:32] BL: It’s like sleep walking. I sometimes feel like that. I’ll like be out in my car or something in Los Angeles, I’ll look around and I’ll just be like, “Everyone’s just in a trance.” I’m often in it like the majority of the time. I don’t think you can necessarily survive or function in the human world if you’re like constantly at like that pitch, but I’m right there with you. Like I was just texting with a friend the other day. I was like, “I’m sort of stuck on the whole I’m alive thing.”

[54:00] I can’t believe it. Like I can’t shake it. You know, like, to me it’s like…I can’t imagine that it will ever not be my central preoccupation as a person and an artist. Like I’m constantly trying to reckon with that. And I think in a healthy way. It feels like a very healthy obsession, you know. 

OM: I think it is a healthy obsession, but I think that it’s completely counter to what children are taught to think about. I mean it’s like, the whole thing about what I got from having been a child was anxiety is bad, you know. Because if you have anxiety, you’re annoying to other people. 

BL: Right.

[54:38] OM: And sure, that’s true, but deal with it. It’s the shared existential anxiety that we are all feeling. And if somebody doesn’t feel safe existing, there’s probably a good reason for that and it doesn’t mean that you are mentally ill, you know. And I think if there is any kind of message in my work that I would hope would come across it’s that: if you’re feeling weird about being alive, it’s not because you need medication, it’s because it is fucking weird. You know?

BL: [laughs] Yeah.

[55:10] OM: And like I’m with you. 

BL: But I think that’s why your work has landed. And I feel like a lot of people respond strongly to it. Like the people it reaches, like it really has the kind of impact that a writer hopes to have, you know. People have powerful experiences reading your work and I think it provides them solace. And again, works on them in subtle ways. It’s not necessarily like this really explicit like flashing neon message, but it’s all there in the work. And it’s like subterranean and it sneaks up on you a little bit. 

[55:42] And that was my experience. And I think it’s noble and I guess like, from a personal standpoint, like what I want is a bit more of your clarity and confidence. Like I’m one of these people who can self-denigrate like reflexively or self-deprecate, you know what I’m saying.

[56:00] OM: Yeah.

BL: Like that’s my mode and I sort of bag on my own creative work too much. I joke about it. I’ve been trying to write a book for like a decade and just like wrestling with this thing. It’s trying to walk that line between darkness and light and trying to bring humor into a situation without undermining it, or being silly. You know what I mean? Silly in a bad way. It’s a struggle for me.

OM: Can I ask you a question? 

BL: Yeah.

OM: And this might be out of line. 

BL: No.

[56:30] OM: But like if you’ve been trying to write a book for a decade, why are you seeking out literature by other living writers that you admire and trying to understand them and spending your time trying to get how they work?

BL: I think I find inspiration from it. I think I’m genuinely curious. Like if you’re asking me, why I do the show? Like I think my experiences as a reader is always…I always think to myself like, “What’s going on with them?” 

[57:01] I’m interested in the person who wrote the work and I have a deep sense of love and empathy for people who make sense of the world through writing and through literature. I think it’s such an interesting and noble way to do it, an honest way. You know there’s like, it’s like it feels like an honest grappling to me. And I guess also, there’s just like this genetic component. And I’m wired for this certain thing and I feel like this is my tribe. 

[57:29] And I feel like this is a way for me to learn from other people, but also to be of service. And I like that feeling, where it’s not just about me and my particular aims, but it’s like I get to give back to the community, get to know people in the community, learn. I like to have these conversations. Like this is…you know, I joke, it’s not entirely true, but I joke, that like this is my social life. But the truth is that in my actual like more traditional social life, I don’t have conversations like this and it bothers me, because usually there’s too many people and there’s phones and everyone’s like doing this and then they step away to get a drink and you’re talking to somebody else. 

[58:07] And it always feels like I’m skimming the surface. When what I really want is not necessarily like a “come to Jesus talk” with every person, because that’s exhausting, but just like a meaningful exchange. Even if it’s like we’re just we’re shooting the shit and joking about something and laughing for an hour. I’m hungry for that. And so I feel like it’s sort of this trick that I’m pulling. Like people come over and talk to me. And it’s the greatest thing and I can’t stop doing it, because I get so much from it, but I also think it might be an elaborate procrastination ritual. 

[58:37] I’ve had that thought. And I don’t know. It’s sort of complicated. But I guess I look to other writers for inspiration and solace and to learn, but I think I respond to what I think you’re getting at is that I need to do it my way and have more faith in my own. Is that what you’re saying?

[59:00] OM: I mean I’m not trying to put words in anybody’s mouth, but I know for me I could never do what you do, Brad. Like, sorry my stomach is grumbling. But I could never do what you do, because it would make…other people’s work and the way that they think and then the way that I imagine how they work and their process would get into my head and every time I would sit down I’d be like, “Well, Sheila Heti does this.” Or, you know, Josh Barcan, whoever that is, does this, you know. Just looking at books on Brad’s shelf. This would be a huge distraction. And like you said a writer needs solitude and quiet and like space to be bored and frustrated and, you know, scratching at the walls. 

[59:47] Part of what’s cool about that kind of torture is that you have to come up with your own solutions and find the inner strength. And for me, I would just be like, “Oh, that’s lame, this thing I’ve come up with is lame, because so-and-so, you know, spent forty years figuring out how to do blah blah blah.” And I don’t know. 

[1:00:10:] BL: Hanya Yanagihara wrote a seven hundred page book in a year. [laughs] I’m like, [gasps]. You hear these stories. They vary. Some people it’s like this marathon and like they get you know…

OM: Comparing, I just think comparing one’s work to someone else’s is a recipe for disaster. 

BL: Right. 

OM: And maybe you have really good boundaries and you don’t do that, but I know like I’m in a relationship with another novelist and we talk about…

[1:00:39] BL: Who I have interviewed.

OM: Right. I mean, Luke Goebel. He’s an incredible writer. He’s a really different…I mean I’d say like we have some things in common, but we have a completely different process, you know. And as much as I like admire and am fascinated by his process, sometimes I’m like, “Wait a second I need like a really hard line, this is yours and this other stuff is mine.” 

[1:01:02] Because if I feel like ownership of my process is starting to fade, you know, I’m gonna be less certain and that would be horrific.

BL: Yeah, because whatever you’re doing it’s working for you. Like you’re generative. I would say prolific. 

OM: Yeah. 

BL: You know, you’re making books, they feel done. [laughs]

[1:01:33] I sometimes feel like people, you know, might rush things to publication or I don’t know they don’t feel fully baked. But like you’re doing really good work. And you’re doing it regularly. 

OM: And it’s always scary. I mean, I think that’s the thing. It’s like, I’ve never had a child, but what I imagine, what I hear women say is you forget the pain, because of the incredible love you have for your baby once its born.

[1:02:00] BL: My wife can confirm this. 

OM: [laughs] Okay. Which is such an amazing trick. And I think that the same thing is true for writing a book. I mean once you see it, and it’s you know, perfect, whatever that means, you forget how awful it was. [laughs] All of those times where you didn’t know what you were doing…

BL: You thought it was lost. 

OM: Like I don’t know how to do this. Like and also just like the heaviness of the task: like making something out of nothing. 

[1:02:36] But, so it’s whenever I start a book, there’s this kind of mediated terror that I feel, which I think is kind of like the drug I’m addicted to now. Like I just started writing a new book and I don’t think it’s gonna become a full-fledged project, like My Year of Rest and Relaxation will, until after this tour is over, because I have no time. 

[1:03:02] But like the beginnings of that like, “Oh my god. This is about to take over my life, I’m about to like go places I’ve never been.” Mostly, you know, I’m willing to do it, but I don’t know where this shit is coming from. Why am I being drawn to this character? Why am I being drawn to this period of history and this place? Why is this voice coming to me?

BL: Do you feel like…are you somebody who, like you believe in ghosts? And you feel like you…like you could possibly be in contact with like a McGlue, like the spirit of McGlue, you know? Is there like a mysticism to your art? Like do you…

[1:03:40] OM: There has been. There has been. It’s not always like, “Oh, this is the voice of a person who has died,” but there is, you know, the one book where I didn’t feel much mysticism in the writing was Eileen

BL: And that, this is well documented, but that was basically you saying to yourself, I’ve got to try to, or I’m gonna try as an experiment to write something that’s more commercial, or in line with like broad appeal or whatever. 

OM: Right, which ended up being kind of a joke, because when I went to try to sell the book, people were like, “Oh, no. This is way too disgusting.” 

[1:04:22] BL: [laughs] Too dark. You can’t, no matter what, you can’t like, I don’t think you can write who you are not. You know what I’m saying? You are who you are as an artist.

OM: Are you calling me disgusting? 

BL: No. [laughs] You’re filthy.

OM: I’m just kidding. 

BL: But no, but I think that’s an interesting art project. You know, you got this book. It was like a “how to write a novel.” Like, how to write a page turner? 

OM: It was called, The 90-Day Novel. And It’s like a patented way to write a novel in ninety days, a draft of a novel in ninety days. 

BL: I bought that book like on my Kindle after reading an interview with you. I’m just recalling this. And I like tried to start reading it and I was like, “Oh, I don’t think I can do this.” Like did you actually follow it? 

[1:05:00] OM: I followed, you know what, I followed for the first thirty days, because those were the days of planning. And it was like I knew…it was a strange period in my life. I was doing something really unnatural. I mean I was like developing character by doing like free writing. Like I come from experimental short story. You know, like this was a very weird thing for me to do. Be like, “I think my character’s motivation is…” It was so artificial. 

[1:05:31] But, you know, like you said, it’s impossible not to be yourself so Eileen was born as like a total Moshfegh character. But what that book actually helped with was like…When you’re writing a novel, I shouldn’t say “you,” when I’m writing a novel, I have to buy in to the delusion, or accept the truth that I’m doing something that preexists. It’s just a matter of time and that my work is to…

[1:06:11] BL: You mean the book already exists…

OM: The book already exists. Like this new book that I’m just starting. It already exists in its totality. I’m just listening for it. And it’s my job to listen and write it down…

BL: Channel

OM: Be like, “Okay, is this what it is?” And I know that it’ll be right. It’ll either not exist or it will, but I’m pretty sure it will because I’m already in love with it. 

[1:06:39] But what The 90-Day Novel did was kind of recast that sense of purposefulness by being like, this isn’t about your book, it’s about this character. It’s a really character motivated way, The 90-Day Novel, like way of planning a book. 

[1:07:05] I mean, it’s all about the hero’s mission and I had never really thought of that that way before. So it was interesting. 

BL: I bet it strengthened you as a writer. 

OM: I mean writing Eileen was like a crash-course in novel writing. I had never even thought about the shape of the novel before. No matter what people say about like studying…I was like a creative writing concentrator at Barnard and I went to an MFA program in creative writing and did fiction and then I went to the Stegner Fellowship at Stanford in fiction. 

[1:07:41] I had already written Eileen by the time I was at Stanford, but nobody ever talked about the shape of a novel. It’s like this weird trade secret that you only get if you study screenwriting.

BL: I was just gonna say that. ‘Cause I’ve written a little bit for TV and have read like Save the Cat and all these like “how to” screenwriting books and the Syd Field, and that it does teach you, that there are certain expectations on the part of a reader or somebody who’s watching a movie, in terms of what happens, and what the experience is gonna be. 

[1:08:16] And I think there’s a lot more latitude in the novel than there is in a screenplay, but to completely discount that as having any value, even if you’re writing like ultra-literary fiction in an experimental vein, I think is a mistake. I think you can learn a hell of a lot about the mechanics of storytelling from studying people who work in this more defined form. 

[1:08:40] You where you’re like, it’s like it’s a hundred and ten pages, something’s gotta happen by page ten, something’s gotta happen by page thirty, you know like? Just that mechanics. It’s like watch-making or something, you know. I found it, I still find it helpful. In fact I should probably lean on it more. 

OM: Maybe.

BL: You know? Just to kind of help…I think what it does is maybe it wakes up the part of me that is thinking about the reader’s experience, as opposed to just like my own stuff.

[1:09:09] OM: Yeah, I totally know what you mean. I totally know what you mean. Like I’ve used this word to describe the kind of fiction that I grew up on, that got me to want to do this for my life and it’s that it’s kind of solipsistic. When a piece of writing is more about its own language than it is about the reader’s experience, it’s…I don’t know, it can get kind of obnoxious to me in a certain way. 

[1:09:36] And I think you nailed it, I mean it’s because the writer is just making it about the writing and not the actual like consciousness of the reader. 

BL: And they’re not communicating. 

OM: Yeah.

BL: So, it’s easy to get lost in. And you seem to have it figured out. I really loved your book and I appreciate you coming over here. I’m glad I got a chance to meet you.

OM: Me too. 

[1:10:02] BL: We don’t live that far apart. Right?

OM: No.

BL: And I wanna at some point meet Luke in person. 

OM: We should all get together. 

BL: I mean, yeah, I was telling you this at the top and I’ll say it again like when I talked to him over the transom I really felt like, “Wow, what a great guy.” So, congratulations to you guys. 

OM: Thank you.

BL: Congratulations on this book and have fun on tour.

OM: Thanks.

BL: Good luck with the next thing and hopefully I’ll see you before too long.

OM: Yeah. I’d love that.

* * *


[1:10:30] BL: Okay, folks. There you have it. That is Ottessa Moshfegh. Her new novel is called My Year of Rest and Relaxation available from Penguin Press. I don’t think she’s on the internet. I don’t think there’s a website. There’s no social media. So just read her book. It’s called My Year of Rest and Relaxation. You can read the other books too. There’s a lot for you to get through. So very nice to meet her. Enjoyed it. Hope you guys like that conversation. If you would like to write to me, if you have thoughts, you can reach me at letters@otherppl.com. 

[1:11:02] If you would like to get the Otherppl app, that is free, oh and thanks to Stereo Total and Kill Rock Stars for the theme song music and the band, Cigarette Royalty, for the interstitial music. I’m doing things out of order today. All episodes of this program are free. Don’t forget. It’s all free. If you would like to support the program, you can do so at patreon.com/otherpplpod. Throw a few bucks in the hat. If you would like to…What else? If you want to listen to the archives, it’s free. It’s all there. Okay. I’m gonna walk outside and evaluate my environment. Check and see if anything’s on fire. Okay.