My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Dwight Garner, in his New York Times review of Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World, described her writing as being “like watching someone grin with a mouthful of blood.” That’s too perfect a description for me to top. This novel is about a young woman who decides she’s going to check out of society and hibernate for a year–and she does so with the help of dozens of different medications, planning to never spend more than a few hours at a time awake. The story follows that year, and fills in some background, all while showcasing Moshfegh’s compellingly disturbing style and black humor. She likes to get under the skin, and to get into the raw physicality of her descriptions. These characters aren’t likable at all, but they’re sure morbidly fascinating!
There’s something about this novel that reminds me of S.J. Perelman’s The Swiss Family Perelman and Westward Ha!. It might be the deadpan absurdity, or the quirky characters, or the witty and sometimes twisty turns of phrase. Probably all of that.
French Exit is about Frances, a wealthy woman in her sixties who is bankrupted after her husband’s death. She and her deadbeat adult son Malcolm decide to move to Paris to live in a friend’s apartment. They bring along their cat, Small Frank, and set out for Europe.
The characters are nuts in the best way, the way that recalls screwball 1930’s comedy. Frances is absurd and not very nice at all, a wealthy beauty who truly enjoys running from “one brightly burning disaster to the next.” Malcolm is next to useless, a sad and self-centered manchild who manages to evoke a little pity, given his parents. And the cat is not just a cat–he’s the vessel for Frances’ late husband’s soul. Once the family gets to Europe, even more oddballs are added to the mix as Frances plans her grand exit.
French Exit is a quick and entertaining novel full of sharp observations and wit, humor and depth, incredibly quirky characters and situations, and some surprising turns.
Today’s the big day, folks! Beautiful weather here in midcoast Maine for tricks’n’treats, and we have plenty of spooky stuff to watch and read here at the library.
Here’s the round-up of my favorite scary books for this year, Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VII: Fangs of the Horrible Clown (thank you, movie title generator!). And here’s a link to all of the Halloween and Horror Reading Lists.
Have a super spooky day and night, fellow Halloweenies! Enjoy this Over the Garden Wall clip to get you in the proper frame of mind for the day.
Is it ghosts? Or is it madness? Or maybe a little of both?
The Ghost Notebooks follows Nick and Hannah, a newly engaged couple at a crisis point in their lives and their relationship. Their careers are stagnating, and so is their bond. In hopes that a big change might help them out of their rut, they take jobs as caretakers for a house museum in upstate New York.
From the first, there’s something eerie and secretive about both the town and the house. The museum was the family home of a 19th century writer and philosopher who, it’s rumored, dabbled in spiritualism. As the days wear on in this remote and creepy new place, Hannah starts to unravel. She stops sleeping, hears voices at night, and becomes obsessed with researching the house and the writer. Nick can only stand by as something tragic happens.
While there’s some occult and spiritualist elements here, this is less a story about a haunting than it is about minds in crisis. Is Nick a reliable narrator? Is something nefarious going on? Or is everything seemingly supernatural simply the result of grief and trauma?
The narrative voice is often wry and funny, and there are a lot of humorous moments balanced against the heavy ones. If you enjoy just a maybe-sprinkling of ghosts around Halloween, or you’re fascinated by how human minds might create ghouls and goblins, give this one a look!
Fans of the trippy, menacing, and occult, take note of Slade House for this Halloween. It’s a haunted house story with a little something extra.
Down a little side street near a pub, there’s an old house called Slade House. However, it’s not there all the time, not anymore. Just once every nine years or so, when the brother and sister who live there invite someone inside. And then never let them leave.
I don’t want to give away too much of the intricate plot, but I will say that the story spans decades and tells the story of several of the “guests” of Slade House. It’s reality-bending and very creepy. And once you know what the stakes are, the constant uneasy and confusing atmosphere becomes threatening.
Slade House is compelling, intricate, and has a great atmosphere of danger and confusion. If you like haunted house stories with a twist, give this a look!
I love Hendrix’s books. I talked about Horrorstor and My Best Friend’s Exorcism on previous Halloweens, and I’m so glad he’s got a new book out just in time for this year’s countdown. While it’s not straight-up Horror, it’s definitely creepy, with plenty of biting social commentary and gory bits. It’s also got a ton of heart and hope.
Kris was the guitarist for a metal band back in the 1990’s. Now, she’s working at a Best Western and about to lose her house. Looming over her life is Terry, her once-friend and bandmate, who was responsible for the messy breakup of their band Durt Wurk, and now has a legendary solo career.
But Kris can’t remember the exact circumstances of the crazy night the band broke up. Craziest of all, Kris realizes that the trajectory of her life seems to be following the storyline of the album she poured her soul into, Troglodyte.
The songs on that album told the story of Black Iron Mountain, which controls the world, and the slave Troglodyte, who fights for freedom. Kris knows she has to fight for her own freedom as well as her soul as she crosses the country to get to Terry’s final concert out in the desert. Because Terry sabotaged a lot more than just the band all those years ago.
Menacing, full of black humor, heartfelt, and a love song to metal, this supernatural thriller is definitely one to add to your reading list this Halloween!
Tremblay is an old Horror Month friend. I especially loved his novel A Head Full of Ghosts. His latest is a tense, compelling, and intimate story about the end of the world.
Wen and her dads are vacationing at a remote cabin in northern New Hampshire when a group of four strangers arrives. They carry homemade weapons and insist that Wen and her parents have been prophesied to help them save the world from the coming apocalypse.
Stories about home invasion always make my skin crawl, and this one is no different. You’re as tense and frightened and uncertain as the protagonists, which always makes for the best scary stories. Later on, when you’re finally in the heads of the invaders, it’s even creepier.
For a Halloween read packed with some shocking violence, surprising humor, an eerie open ending, and a compulsively readable style, give this one a try!