I read Cat Marnell’s drug-addict-magazine-beauty-editor memoir How To Murder Your Life over the weekend, and its resemblance with Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation was so resounding that I was going to put it down to check the dates; did Moshfegh steal Marnell’s life? But as I read more, just as Marnell says in her memoir “My heart was going a million miles a minute. (Sorry to keep using that same cliched expression – but this is an amphetamine memoir.)”, I guess that is the drug experience – specific, repetitious, wretched – that reverberates. And there are other echoes in the specificity of these privileged, young white women’s experience of New York in their lonely, lost existence, their self-loathing, and relationships with some truly dreadful, exploitative men. It is Moshfegh’s novel that rises above the cliches and repetitions of a drug memoir into something thrilling and brilliant.
Both women sit in a tradition of New York women writers, from Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence to Candace Bushnall’s Sex & the City, surveying the single woman in NYC; sometimes flourishing, but often falling flat. Which all combined to remind me of my very favourite New York novel, Tama Janowitz’s A Certain Age. It’s smart, fierce and heartbreaking and if memory serves me correctly, inspired by Wharton’s The House of Mirth. Is that right or did I just make that up?
Anyway, I love, love, LOVE Tama Janowitz. And if you come to love A Certain Age, I also recommend two of her New York short story collections, Slaves of New York and Area Code 212.