Reviewed by Stuart McMeans
OK, so the lowdown.
“Homesick For Another World” is a collection of 14 short stories and 304 pages in length. It was published back in January 2017.
You’ve got tons of corona-time, but hardly the patience for 304 pages.
You now have the time to tackle “Crime and Punishment,” but unfortunately not the attention span. Moshfegh's 14 short stories are unique little gems you can take one day at a time, each tale bringing a paradigm shift-like escape. What makes this collection stand out is her chameleon-like ability to write from the perspective of a middle-age Asian man; a Jesus-haired, Brooklyn hipster; a lonely, drug-addled schoolteacher in the boonies; and that perfect, upper-crust Manhattan couple equally well. There's no need to commit to one character—if one protagonist doesn't float your boat, skip to the next story.
A little bit about the author...
Ottessa Moshfegh was born to a Croatian mother and an Iranian-Jewish father. She was raised in Boston and educated at Brown University. Most of her stories first appeared in the New Yorker and the Paris Review (I know, very “fa-fa-fa”). She was even shortlisted for the snootiest of snooty book prizes, The Man Booker. But the most remarkable thing about her writing is how accessible it is while still being incredibly smart. The awesome side benefit of reading Moshfegh is that you get literary cred without having to read something as convoluted as “Infinite Jest.”
The Schadenfreude Identification Paradox?
Lots of big words for a pandemic brain, I know. But reading is often times relating to the characters while also getting pleasure from observing someone in crisis that's not you. And these peeps are in crisis. Moshfegh's unresolved tales are filled with interesting oddballs who are psychologically real and bare, and do bad things—often. Yet, no one needs to be redeemed or to inspire. They just appear on the page, saying “Here I am,” with all of their conflicting detail and complexity. You end up relating, but you can also (truly) socially distance.
Read this if…
You want 14 reminders that despite our own respective journeys, everyone struggles with the human condition.
Stuart is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles.