Tag Archives: Genre

#Bookreview EILEEN by Ottessa Moshfegh. A Marmite kind of novel

REVIEWS FOR LITERARY WORLD REVIEWS

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Title:   Eileen
Author:   Ottessa Moshfegh
ISBN13:  978-0143128755
ASIN:  B01BYMRLEA
Published:  Penguin Books
Pages:  272
Genre:  
Thriller: Crime and suspense, literary

Description:

Shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize and chosen by David Sedaris as his recommended book for his Fall 2016 tour. 

So here we are. My name was Eileen Dunlop. Now you know me. I was twenty-four years old then, and had a job that paid fifty-seven dollars a week as a kind of secretary at a private juvenile correctional facility for teenage boys. I think of it now as what it really was for all intents and purposes—a prison for boys. I will call it Moorehead. Delvin Moorehead was a terrible landlord I had years later, and so to use his name for such a place feels appropriate. In a week, I would run away from home and never go back.

This is the story of how I disappeared.

The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

Played out against the snowy landscape of coastal New England in the days leading up to Christmas, young Eileen’s story is told from the gimlet-eyed perspective of the now much older narrator. Creepy, mesmerizing, and sublimely funny, in the tradition of Shirley Jackson and early Vladimir Nabokov, this powerful debut novel enthralls and shocks, and introduces one of the most original new voices in contemporary literature.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Editorial Reviews

Review

Eileen is a remarkable piece of writing, always dark and surprising, sometimes ugly and occasionally hilarious. Its first-person narrator is one of the strangest, most messed-up, most pathetic—and yet, in her own inimitable way, endearing—misfits I’ve encountered in fiction. Trust me, you have never read anything remotely like Eileen.” —Washington Post

“What makes Moshfegh an important writer—and I’d even say crucial—is that she is unlike any other author (male, female, Iranian, American, etc.). And this sui generis quality is cemented by the singular savage suburban noir of Eileen. . . . Here is art that manages to reject artifice and yet be something wholly new and itself in sheer artistry.” —The Los Angeles Times

Eileen is anything but generic. Eileen is as vivid and human as they come . . . Moshfegh . . . writes beautiful sentences. One after the other they unwind — playful, shocking, wise, morbid, witty, searingly sharp. The beginning of this novel is so impressive, so controlled yet whimsical, fresh and thrilling, you feel she can do anything . . . There is that wonderful tension between wanting to slow down and bathe in the language and imagery, and the impulse to race to see what happens, how it happens.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The great power of this book, which won the PEN/Hemingway debut fiction award last month, is that Eileen is never simply a literary gargoyle; she is painfully alive and human, and Ottessa Moshfegh writes her with a bravura wildness that allows flights of expressionistic fantasy to alternate with deadpan matter of factness…As an evocation of physical and psychological squalor, Eileen is original, courageous and masterful.” —The Guardian

 

Body of review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Random House UK, Vintage Publishing, Jonathan Cape, for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I have freely chosen to review.

I confess that I did look at some of the reviews on this novel before writing mine and they are very evenly divided. Some people love it and others can’t stand it. Yes, I guess it’s a Marmite kind of novel. Why? Having checked the novel in several online stores I noticed that it is classified under mystery novels, and if lovers of the genre of mystery read this novel I suspect many of them are bound to feel cheated or disappointed. Literary fiction, which is another one of the categories it is classified under, perhaps is a better fit.

The story is an in-depth look at a character, the Eileen of the title, who is narrating an episode of her own life, in the first person. It is not strictly written as a memoir. As I observed recently when reviewing a novel also told from the point of view of the older character looking back and reflecting at her young self (in that case it was Anne Boleyn), these kinds of books have the added interest for the reader of trying to work out how much of what is being told is filtered by the wishes of the older person to provide a positive portrayal of their young selves. In this case, what is quite shocking is that either that younger Eileen had no endearing features, or the older Eileen is trying to make herself feel better and reassure herself that she’s come a very long way, indeed.

Eileen is a lonely young woman (twenty-four at the time of the episode she describes), whose mother died years back, who has a very superficial relationship with her only sister (who no longer lives at home and who seems to be very different), and who lives with her father, a retired policeman, an alcoholic and paranoid man, who sees hoodlums and conspiracies everywhere. From the mentions she makes of her mother and her past experiences, her childhood was also sad and the opposite of nurturing, with both parents drinking heavily, and neither of them having any interest in family life (and even less in Eileen, as her sister seemed to be the favourite). She lives in a derelict house, drives an old car with exhaust problems, works at a young boy’s prison, and has no friends or hobbies, other than shoplifting and looking at National Geographic magazines. She lives in a world of fantasy, and even her physiological functions are bizarre.

In some ways, the novel reminded me of Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller because of the narrator, who was also very self-absorbed and had no empathy for anybody, although in that case, it wasn’t evident from the star. Here, Eileen sees and observes things carefully as if cataloguing everything that happens, but has nothing good to say about anybody, apart from the people she gets crushes on (however undeserving they might be).

The novel, full of details which can be seen as sad, shocking, or bizarre but humane depending on our point of view, hints from the beginning at something momentous that is going to happen and has influenced the choice of the point at which the story starts. A couple of new employees come to work at the prison and Rebecca, a young and glamorous woman (at least from Eileen’s point of view) becomes Eileen’s new obsession. She tries her best to deserve this woman’s attention and that gets her in some trouble that I guess it the mystery part (and I won’t discuss to avoid spoilers, even though as I said I don’t think the novel fits in that genre easily, although perhaps it shares similarities with some classics of the genre, and I’ve seen mentions of Patricia Highsmith. Ripley, perhaps?). From the reviews, I saw that some readers were disappointed by the ending, although it fits in well with the rest of the book. (And from the point of view of the character, at least, it feels positive.)

The novel is beautifully written (although the content itself is not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination), detailed and fantastically observed, and it works as an impressive psychological study, that had me wondering about all kinds of personality disorder types of diagnosis (although the whole family are depicted as very dysfunctional). It is difficult to empathise with such a character, although she seems to be an extreme representation of somebody with low self-esteem and completely self-obsessed (and at a lesser level, even if we might not feel comfortable acknowledging it, most of us have contemplated some of her thoughts or feelings at some point). She is relentless in her dislike for almost everybody and everything, but even her older self remains unapologetic (and well, it takes guts to just not care at all). I could not help but wonder how much better she is now, despite her words, as her comments indicate that she hasn’t changed an iota. If anything, she’s come into herself. But I guess self-acceptance is a big change for her.

I found it a fascinating novel, a case study of the weird and disturbed, pretty noir, but not a read I would recommend everybody. (After all, I’m a psychiatrist…) It is not a feel-good or a nice novel to read but it might be for you if you like weirdly compelling characters and are happy to go with a narrator who is not sympathetic at all. I don’t think I’ll forget Eileen or its author in a hurry.

eileen3

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think: 4.5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Readability: 3.5/5
Recommended: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
 

Buy it at:  
Format & Pricing:
Paperback:  $9.52 (https://www.amazon.com/Eileen-Novel-Ottessa-Moshfegh/dp/0143128752/

Kindle: $6.19 (https://www.amazon.com/Eileen-Shortlisted-Booker-Prize-2016-ebook/dp/B01BYMRLEA/

Hardback: $17.64 (https://www.amazon.com/Eileen-Novel-Ottessa-Moshfegh/dp/1594206627/

Audiobook: $23.59 (https://www.amazon.com/Eileen/dp/B01K7U9GFW/

 

Link to an example one (areas you enjoyed, areas for improvement)

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Ravenswood Publishing’s Kitty Honeycutt Q&A @RAVENSWOODPUB

Today I have one of those people as a guest. The mythical thing all authors call . . . Publisher. Do you need an agent? In today’s Lit World and even in the Lit World for years you haven’t HAD to have an agent. Today’s publisher though has nearly 100 authors and not a single agent to be found. The roster is filled with Indie Authors. Discover how the little girl born of the red clay of the state I live in came to be a publisher. Meet . . .

 Publisher&Author

Kitty Honeycutt

Ravenswood Publishing Kitty Honeycutt

RW: Well Kitty, let’s start off with where you are from and where are you now because I am sure there are people that have no idea where the state of red clay is.

KITTY: First of all I’d like to say that I’m very pleased you asked me for this interview it’s exciting and I always love to tell everyone about my path to writing and how it all started. I am currently living in North Carolina, though I was born in LaGrange, Georgia. I’m a country girl at heart, raised in rural Sampson County. I attended Midway High, in Dunn, NC and now live in Raeford.

RW: It’s probably rare for someone to start out as a publisher so how did the pub bug first bite you?

KITTY: I began reviewing books for larger companies in 2011 and first started reviewing Indie writer’s books soon after. One of the first books I reviewed from an Indie author was “Dirty Little Angels” by Chris Tusa, and then moved on to “The Cursed Man” by Keith Rommel. I fell in love with both these stories and a passion for Indie writing began. I sought out other Indie authors and found that a lot of the stories I read were worthy of being published by larger companies though I had no idea why they had not been snapped up long before. I began to be an entrepreneur of the Independent’s and launched a blog dedicated not only to reviewing but hosting interviews and guest posts. I soon gained valuable notoriety in this area and had authors actively seeking my reviews.

RW: And thus Kitty Honeycutt the publisher was born?

KITTY: I began to wonder if I could publish books for a living. I’m a writer as well though I have nothing out yet, my passion took over as an entrepreneur for these authors and I simply haven’t had the time. But, I do intend to soon. I have a book currently in the works. Though, my reason for becoming a publisher was to help put a name behind these wonderful authors in an effort to get them the notoriety they deserved. It has been a wonderful experience and I have helped quite a few. One of my biggest was Brian D. Anderson of “The Godling Chronicles” fame. He came to me with a book barely selling 5 copies a month with his old publisher. After changing his cover art and reworking the editing he began selling hundreds and eventually thousands. With my guidance he became a best seller in no time and remains so still.

I currently work with almost 100 authors on the path to creating more bestsellers. That is my current goal.

RW: What do you see as the role of a publisher for an author who is represented by an agent and one who is not represented by an agent?

KITTY: None of my authors are represented by agents so I have to do most of what an agent would do for them. I work mostly on Internet promotions as a lot of my authors do not have the time to do it all themselves. I give them the ability of having a name behind them as well as a person backing them up and cheering them on. I work hard for all of my authors, sometimes working as much as 24 to 72 hours in a stretch.

A lot of people don’t know what promotion entails, it’s much more than just getting your book to sell, it’s about selling the author as well. Agents have the role of soliciting authors to other publishing companies. This is what gets them in the door. However, with my business, I allow authors to send unsolicited manuscripts. A publisher does more than just soliciting, a publisher is responsible for every aspect of the process. This includes putting the book together, formatting, cover art and getting it out in the public eye. Then the process of promotion begins. A lot of agents don’t delve into the promotions as much as they do the simple soliciting of a book to publishers.

RW: How do you determine attention given to an author, such as if one is suddenly receiving great attention and showing promising sales or publicity, do you have anything in place to notice this and perhaps push that person over the top?

KITTY: As a publisher, having as many authors as I do, I try hard to delegate my time and effort fairly. I can say that if an author is doing well, and especially if they work hard for themselves, I will back them to the greatest extent possible. I do actively push my authors to do well, and to help themselves as much as I try to help them. It’s a partnership, not a one-sided business. My drive is the fact that if I don’t get their books to sell then I’m not only doing them a disservice but myself a disservice as well. The only money I make are from royalties just as they do. This makes it beneficial to us both. I’ll be honest and say that if an author comes to me and they do not show much interest and expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter and done for them, then they are in for a surprise. You must work together as a team, I can’t make you a bestseller and I’ll never lead them to believe that I can. It takes dedication and a lot of hard work on both parts.

RW: What can an Author expect from you when they sign a contract?

KITTY: They can expect that I will work hard for them and do everything in my power to make sure their book is as close to perfect as it can possibly be. I am more interested in quality than quantity and I do not take on every author that submits a manuscript. I only take on, promote and work hard for those I genuinely believe deserve it, the ones that I know will work hard for themselves and are serious about their writing and creative achievement.

RW: I notice that for now you deal with print through Createspace rather than a print distributor is there a business practice philosophy there?

KITTY: We do currently deal with Createspace. The reasons of course are as follows. Firstly, I am a small business, my business is run out of my own home so therefore I do not have a warehouse to store print books for purchase. Also, the fees for a distribution service can be extremely costly. I do not have the financial backing in place to afford those fees, nor do I expect my authors to pay for them. I am not a vanity press, so I do not charge my authors any fees to publish with my company. Right now print-on-demand is our best option as it allows us the benefit of having print books without any overhead cost. I still pay for custom ISBN’s for my authors but at a much more minimal fee than what it costs with a lot of distributor printers, also Createspace now offers expanded distribution for free, so our books go into the very same catalogs that they would go into with Lightning Source or any of the other companies that are distributor based and there is no additional charge. The only downfall to POD printing is the no return policy. We hope in the future this will change in some regard.

RW: Are you the only person that ‘handles’ your author?

Kitty: I most certainly am. I work alone. I do it all, the cover art, the formatting, the promotions, the whole nine yards. I do not have anyone else that works for my authors or for myself. I’m a one woman show and so far, I’ve been told that I do it well and in some cases far better than a lot of larger publishing companies! I’d love to have help, but of course it’s a matter of being able to afford to pay employees and since I’m more an entrepreneur and wish to keep my authors from paying exorbitant fees for everything I do, I’d rather work 24 to 72 hours at a time. I also grew up in a family that has always been go-getters and believed that ‘if you want something done right, it’s better to do it yourself.’ Not to mention if you want something done in a timely manner.

RW: How do you ‘search for talent’ as is mentioned on your site?

KITTY: To be quite honest, Ron, I don’t search at all. All of my authors to this day, have come to me. I have yet to go and actively search for any authors. I don’t believe in going out and soliciting. I feel that if they truly like what they read, and they meet me and like me as a person and they feel they can trust me, they will come aboard and we’ll do a lot of great business together.

RW: So when I finish one of my novels will you sign me up?

KITTY: Of course! Just kidding 😉 But seriously, you’d have to go through the same rigorous trials as all the rest. One thing I try not to do, is take on an author because they are a friend of someone else’s or my own. I won’t take on anything or any work that I don’t truly believe in. But, in all sincerity, something tells me you just may be a talent to be reckoned with! We’ll have to wait and see. J

RW: How many submissions do you get and what happens once that submission hits the email or submission box?

KITTY: I get somewhere between 12 to sometimes 20 submissions a day. The process for submitting is, the author must send a full synopsis or outline of their story. Since I don’t have time to read the entire book before making a decision I like to know what is going to happen to the fullest. I also like for the author to send me at least 3 to 5 chapters of their actual manuscript so I can get a feel for their writing. I do have a lovely woman by the name of Lisanne Cooper that helps with my submissions. She does this out of the kindness of her heart and I trust her implicitly as to her knowledge of what is good and what is not. Lisanne is an editor with Ravenswood as well, and she is amazing. She has edited almost every book we have out and she is very capable of pulling off her ‘specific genre likes’ hat in order to make viable decisions on manuscript selection for publication. I do read the submissions as well and between the two of us we make the right choices for what we feel is best for Ravenswood.

RW: How many do you accept, percentage wise and what makes a good submission to you? (Taking notes.)

KITTY: The amount is hard to say. It really depends on what we find that we feel is worth our time and effort. I have had months that I have not accepted a single submission and some where I’ve accepted 10 or more. Submissions are almost always open, and one thing that I do not do is put deadlines on my authors or myself. With the way I work, I try and get the books out in a timely manner and so far it seems I’m doing well. But I never make promises. It’s just not feasible to do so. I can say that I haven’t let my author’s down yet in regards to release dates. At least I think I haven’t… What makes a good submission first and foremost is if the author can follow directions for submission. What we ask for on the site is exactly what we want. If we get a submission where the author has just typed up a generic query and tossed it at us, forgot to attach the manuscript chapters or synopsis, then we have and usually will pass them by. We don’t like submissions where author’s brag too much. Not to say that they may not be right when they claim to be our next bestseller, but to us boasting is just not necessary. Mainly, we like for you to be professional, and be honest with yourself and us. Send your submissions as asked and you’ll have a fighting chance. J

RW: I notice you have a varied roster of authors and genres, is there something you are looking for, like a wish list of a book subject matter?

KITTY: Horror! I really would love to get more horror this year. I love the genre myself but I don’t have a lot of it at Ravenswood. My favorite horror is the macabre H.P. Lovecraft and Poe. But I would love to get any kind of horror for our Dark Feed Press imprint! I would also love more non-fiction and what I’m really interested in right now is more like the kind of non-fiction that Llewellyn Press puts out. I would love to get some Pagan non-fiction.

RW: Are there genres or subjects you see as perhaps fading in popularity?

KITTY: I feel sometimes that Non-fiction is fading a bit, I also think that Paranormal may be fading some. It seems that fantasy has become more popular lately and as you can see Mythos is one of our largest selections. I’m really hoping to see a comeback for a lot of genres this year, including Science Fiction.

RW: Where do you see the future of publishing headed?

KITTY: With the rise of Independents I honestly think that the larger publishers may have some competition. We are in an age where anyone can publish, and a lot of authors choose to go their own way. Though we do have a well of small presses, including my own and I honestly hope to see them rise more. I feel that there is a vast untapped potential out there and at times I truly feel that the larger publishers either pass them by or simply don’t see the majority of the ‘diamond’s in the ruff’ out there. I’m determined, however, not to pass them up!

RW: What do you say when people mention something to you about how publishers aren’t really necessary in today’s world of books?

KITTY: I’m the first to say that they are wrong. The reason why is clear. It’s easy to publish a book on your own as an author, but it’s not easy to find someone that will back you up, push you to do your best, and genuinely fight for you when you’re being ostracized and getting those reviews that we know often bring you down. I’m that kind of person, and publisher. I will fight for my authors and I treat them like family. If they are being harassed unnecessarily, if they are feeling bad over a bad review, I’m there for them, and I show them how much I care. I work hard for them and I take on the workload they can’t take on themselves because of outside jobs or family life. Of course, family and friends will be there for you too, but a publisher, especially one like me, we know the business, we know how it works, we’re going to help you and put our name and strength behind you, I’m not going to leave you floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean alone. That’s why we’re needed.

RW: How do you handle Authors that might think they should be your star?

KITTY: The same way I’d handle my own kids. That may sound odd to some people but at times you have to remind them that they aren’t the only ones. I have close to 100 authors, and they all get a fair shake from me. I don’t put up with attitudes and I don’t put up with ideas of grandeur. We are all stars, we are all worthy, and no one should take precedence over another no matter how much money they may be bringing in, or how great their books are. We are all a team, we all help one another and that’s just the way it has to be. I’m honest to a fault and I have let authors of mine know before when I think their egos are getting the best of them. I’ll be the first to bring them back down. Just call me the gravity boot!

RW: I know you are an Author as well as publisher, what genres do you write in?

KITTY: Right now, I’m writing a fantasy for young adults and middle graders. But I also write paranormal/supernatural, I have an erotica in the works, I have several historical fiction novels in the works, and I have a few other fantasy novels in mind. My ideas go all over the board.

RW: What is your background in writing?

KITTY: My background in writing is like a lot of my authors. I have never studied writing in school or taken any classes other than those in my business class. I know the difference however, between creative writing and thesis writing and as much as some would like to believe they are… they are NOT the same. I have been writing almost since I was old enough to read. I was making up stories in my mind even before then, trust me, when I was a kid, my parents likely thought I needed to be put in an asylum or I had one of the most creative imaginations ever. I was that kid, when I’d been outside playing in the woods, and I’d come in after being out all day for dinner, they’d ask me where I’d been and my response was something as follows: “I was out riding Bess! We jumped the creek, she walked for a bit and ate some clover then we headed back. My pants are wet because I fell off on the way back over the creek and landed in the water. We had to go on the other side because she lost her horn over there the last time. We got it back though so she’s whole again now.” See… Bess was my unicorn, and we had adventures all the time, the thing was, at that time we didn’t even have a horse, so you can see what I mean about the imagination part. 😉

RW: What are you reading now, both in your own company and outside?

KITTY: Right now I’m finishing Carrie F. Shepherd’s book “Fall from Grace: The Scribing of Ishitar” I’m going to start on “Buan: The Perfect Mortals” by Reece Bridger next, both my authors of course. I do have one book that I intend to start on soon from another author, one of my personal favorites, Lloyd Alexander. I love fantasy!

RW: What’s your favorite word and why?

KITTY: Knight! And not even the reason you’d think! It’s a rather long story but I’ll shorten it as best I can. I pronounce it niggit, and the reason why is my daughter and I were watching Game of Thrones a while back and the Lord Stannis’ daughter was teaching the Onion Knight, how to read. He saw the word ‘knight’ and pronounced it niggit and ever since then I have used it for everything. When I feel I’m about to say a bad word, I say niggit instead. Our cat, Merlin loves to play with my scrunchies and I have started calling them niggits and now I can actually tell him to bring me one and he will… no joke. But he also likes for us to launch them like a rubber band and he’ll fetch them and bring them back. Yes… we have some very strange animals in our house.

Interested in books from Ravenswood Publishing?

Are you an author looking to be published?

If you answered yes to either of those then click here to go to their site.

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I want to thank Kitty for joining us today and giving us a little insight into what makes this particular publisher tick. Check out the books by her authors and as always, remember . . .

Read a Book, Write a Review.

 

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