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August 18, 2015

Book Notes - Ottessa Moshfegh "Eileen"


In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Ottessa Moshfegh's novel Eileen is literary noir at its finest, a dark and unsettling character study brilliantly written.

BookPage wrote of the book:

"If Shirley Jackson and Mary Gaitskill had a literary daughter, it might be Ottessa Moshfegh, whose unnerving debut is sure to gar­ner attention."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Ottessa Moshfegh's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Eileen:

Eileen might be about a mousey, miserable young secretary in a boy's prison in 1964, but I think if she and I were hanging out tonight, I'd insist we listen to some raunchy turn-of-the-millennium hip-hop.

"Forget your neurotic battles," I'd tell her. "You're tense. And you know what helps with tension? Getting laid. This is the musical equivalent."

I imagine Eileen would be stupefied at first, maybe even insulted. She'd blush and fidget and wonder if I was trying to humiliate her. I wonder if she'd think I was coming onto her. Probably. I might have to leave the room and watch her through the crack in the door…

Most of us are more Eileen Dunlop than we'd like to think: squeamish about our own perversions, judgmental of people who enjoy life shamelessly. We're all oppressed and fucked up in one way or another. Personally, I don't like feeling oppressed. I don't like feeling neurotic. Those feelings make me angry. And my anger is boring. It produces boring fiction. Boring fiction is just more oppression. So forget that. I'm here to deliver a new experience: "Get into my car, dear reader. I want to take you somewhere. I want to show you something. It may frighten you, but you might like that…" It takes real bravado to pull that off. A lot of people don't like me or my writing, but I'm not afraid of my own arrogance. The alternative—perpetual self-analysis and fear—is utterly depressing and paralyzing. Sometimes it takes a god-complex to disrupt the status quo. I like how these hip-hop artists do it: "I'm the greatest of all time."

My favorite forms of literary art are stand-up comedy and rap music. I'm not great at either (I've tried both!). So I write fiction (and other things). Although my content is often neurotic, I can't be operating from a place of angst and insecurity if I want the reader to go crazy with me. I can't expect the reader to soothe me, or correct me, or fill in the blanks where I'm too afraid to write what I need to. Lame! I like to think that great art offers up a special kind of orgasm. It may not be sexual, but it should blow your mind. When that happens to me, it's a spiritual experience. I think this happens more easily with music than any other art form because listening is not an intellectual exercise. That's one of my beefs with literature—too much brain activity. I often wish I could have been an R&B singer…

Okay, okay… The least sexy thing I can think of is some schmuck who takes herself too damn seriously. So here's my playlist for setting all this thinky shminky to the side for a minute. Tell me this shit doesn't turn you on…

LL COOL J "Doin It"

P. DIDDY, B2K "Bump, Bump, Bump"



YO MAJESTY "Club Action"

LIL' KIM "No Matter What They Say"

AALIYA ft. DMX "Come Back In One Piece"


50 CENT "Candy Shop"

EVE ft GWEN STEFANI "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"

BUSTA RHYMES ft. P DIDDY "Pass the Courvoisier Part I"


JUVENILE "Slow Motion"

Ottessa Moshfegh and Eileen links:

the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

The Artery review
Kirkus review
Los Angeles Times review
New York Times review
Newsday review
The Rumpus review
Wall Street Journal review
Washington Post review

BOMB interview with the author
Hazlitt interview with the author
The Iowa Review interview with the author
Vanity Fair profile of the author
Weekend Edition interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)