Homesick For Another World
A call to our inner punk-brains, an invitation to escape, but escape not to somewhere beautiful or better - escapism is turned on its head and lit on fire, in this wicked collection of short stories. Ottessa Moshfegh, American fiction writer, blends the grotesque corners of the narrative mind with the tender yearning for connection of the human heart, in Homesick For Another World, a collection of short stories released in 2017.
In recent years, we have forgotten how to dream of a utopian world. Extreme destruction and mindless consumerism have shaped society into a mass of wired fanatics; blindly churning round the wheel of capitalism, crushing their own bodies in the process. Intricately exploring facets of self-imposed limitations, addiction and identity, this masterpiece utilises the still taboo topics of sex, drugs and hard truths, to expound a longing for connection that encompasses the entire human race, in this world and the author’s.
Details so vivid and peculiar, they push the reader curious beyond the story. How Moshfegh actually acquired this eclectic collection of raw and brilliant details makes me wonder about her life. Details, that not only add to character development, but also abyssal depth to their humanness. To their fallible side. Shining an invasive, clinical light in the darkest and dirtiest corners of one’s self, autopsying our broken behaviour with no attachment and no happy ending.
Yet, we as the reader, fail to walk away empty-handed. Wether it’s disgust, squeamishness, pity or shock, Moshfegh pushes us to the tight centrepoint between empathy and rejection - we don’t want to admit those things are true, but we know they are. We know there’s a world that takes place beneath the cloth we display to those around us - inside our heads, in private, in desperation, in grief - in an every day state of mind, there’s a side of us that is wicked, sometimes shocking, with how twisted and fucked-up we can actually be.
The sharp stories are set in this present, familiar time. Going as far back as the late 70’s, references to shows like Eight Is Enough, or Superman II out in theatres, might bring some further down the memory lane than others. Leather loafers, tunnel-visioned impulses and unfulfilled souls are the only motifs within these walls.
With a skilful ability to cloak herself in her character’s dialogue, Moshfegh takes us to pristinely uncensored places:
“It was true: I had pimples. But I was still good-looking. Girls liked me. I rarely liked them back. If they asked me what I did for fun, I told them lies, saying I Jet Skied or went to casinos. The truth was that I didn’t know how to have fun. I wasn’t interested in fun. I spent most of my time looking in the mirror or walking to the corner store for cups of coffee. I had a thing about coffee. It was pretty much all I drank. That and diet ginger ale. Sometimes I stuck my finger down my throat. Plus I was always picking at my pimples. I covered the marks they made with girls’ liquid foundation, which I stole from Walgreens.” (Malibu).
Bearing always a satirical and comical essence, it’s easy to feel like you’ve peeked under the veil of one’s cranium, right into their thinking brain.
“He was bashful about sex and insisted on getting underneath the sheets to take off his clothes. During the act he kept his hands placed lightly on the girl’s shoulders and averted his eyes but did not close them.” (Mr. Wu).
Written in first, second and third person, a range of angles are applied appropriately to the varying character trajectories, different voices arise to resonate with an audience of a wide demographic, from child to elderly person and all in between. Although this is a collection of adult short stories, the thought process of a child; the wild flicks of the paintbrush of their imagination splatters us with memories of our own - a time when blasphemy was normality… a time when things made sense.
“I come from some other place. It’s not like a real place on Earth or something I could point to on a map, if I even had a map of this other place, which I don’t. There’s no map because the place isn’t a place like something to be near or in or at. It’s not somewhere or anywhere, but it’s not nowhere either. There is no where about it. I don’t know what it is.
But it certainly isn’t this place, here on Earth, with all you silly people. I wish I knew what it was, not because I think it would be great to tell you about it; I just miss it so much. If I knew what it was, maybe I could make something like it here on Earth. Waldemar says it’s impossible. The only way to get there is to go.
- “Waldemar,” I say to my brother. “How do we get back to the place, to the thing, whatever?”
- “Oh, you have to die. Or you have to kill the right person.” (A Better Place).
Tying each piece together with the burning, albeit masked desire for true, human connection, Homesick For Another World engages the reader in the familiar and natural occurrences in relationships with others and with ourselves. It transfixes the reader with its’ acute detail and ruthless style. A must read for any lover of dark-humour and dystopian worlds. To be absorbed with a sharp scalpel in hand, dissecting the conflicts between our inner and outer worlds.