Monday, 22 November 2021

McGlue - Ottessa Moshfegh


McGlue (2014) is the only novella so far from multi-award-winning US author Moshfegh.  It's a cracker.  I read it in a sitting because I couldn't put it down.  McGlue is a total reprobate, more or less seduced into running away to sea by an acquaintance called Johnson.  The year is 1851; both McGlue and Johnson come from the township of Salem.  McGlue's only interest in life, from an early age, has been rum.  Johnson keeps him well-liquored and relatively safe, because Johnson ultimately wants McGlue to do him a favour.  One morning in Zanzibar McGlue comes more or less to his senses.  He is taken aboard ship, kept confined, and returned to Salem to stand trial for the murder of his friend Johnson.

The book consists of McGlue trying to untangle the tatters of rum-soaked memory.  He is often unable to tell fact from delusion - Johnson, for example, regularly visits him in prison as he awaits trial.  It is wonderfully done.  Moshfegh inhabits every pore of her unappealing yet oddly innocent protagonist.  She's won a lot of prizes and no wonder.

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