It’s funny because it’s true: Ottessa Moshfegh’s mastery of satire

Charon Kong

This review is extremely biased. I am a true sucker for pessimistic satire, I find solidarity in women who need lobotomies and relax by laughing at loser men. Above all of that, I love Ottessa Moshfegh and her habit of portraying those subjects with unrelenting grit and style. I finally picked up her book of short stories, Homesick for Another World, and was left feeling a perfect medley of homesick and sick of home. Moshfegh builds a disgustingly human world, one of ego, depravity, and selfishness, and forces her readers to live in it for 200 pages before reminding them that this horrifying world is their home, even when they close the book. And somehow, you feel better after reading it than you did before. 

The land of Homesick for Another World is one of sickos and loners: an ever-hungover school teacher, a middle-class woman trying out meth for the hell of it in a poverty stricken town, a widower seeking out sex with the prostitute that his late wife cheated on him with. Examinations of humankind and its flaws often take the form of dramas or tragedies that leave you generally depressed, but Moshfegh lets you laugh. These people are lonely, they are desperate, and it’s hilarious!

That’s where the real purpose of these stories comes in. By getting you to laugh and cringe at the characters, Moshfegh almost lets you forget that it’s a mirror you’re looking at. You can criticize and see the ridiculousness of these strange creatures, but then remember they’re not aliens, they’re just humans. They are the byproducts of the world you currently inhabit. The book never lets you like its characters, but you can pick up glimmers of yourself, your parents, or your best friend throughout it because it’s extremely human. We’re all a little bizarre. That’s scary and sad, but isn’t it at least somewhat tolerable if you can laugh at it?