Saturday, February 27, 2016

Shelving: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

I thought of The Bell Jar while reading this novel. In some respects Eileen is the odd double of Plath’s Esther Greenwood. Both New England women of the 1960s, both poor, both at the mercy of a single parent who pushes them to live a life they don’t necessarily want to live. Both are placid without and turbulent within. But whereas Esther is an overachiever, driven by her mother to excel, Eileen never finishes college, and is kept by her father in a position of servility. Both women are inward-looking and mercilessly observant, and sometimes a little clumsy in their expression. Here’s Esther on drinking: ‘I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.’ When Eileen gets upset she has an odd way of getting it together: 'I found an empty room and grit my teeth and pinched my nipples while kicking the air like a cancan dancer until I felt foolish and ashamed.’
Lydia Kiesling’s review of Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh 
 It reminded me of The Bell Jar, too. At least a distant, vaguely sociopathic cousin. I also got glimpses of Alissa Nutting’s Tampa, though that was more or less a distaff Lolita,