Friday, March 2, 2018

What the Judges Had to Say About Ottessa Moshfegh's Homesick for Another World

photo © Beowulf Sheehan
When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were Susan Minot, Walton Muyumba, and Stephanie Sendaula. We include the citations in congratulatory letters we present to each finalist, along with their checks ($20,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the other two finalists). To protect the confidentiality of the judges' votes and the integrity of the process, we don't attribute citations to any particular judge.
“Ottessa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World is hilarious and humane. In punchy, terse, sparkling sentences, Moshfegh creates fictional zones that span the globe—from Japan, China, Ukraine, New York, to California. She’s interested in human foibles that ‘translate’ across zones rather than identifying the local particulars of any place.

“Peopled by odd, beautiful, delusional characters, Moshfegh’s stories examine how humans attempt to dull their various anxieties, emotional and existential, with drugs, bad amorous arrangements, and wondrously debauched, disgusting (as one character puts it) sex. But none of this is cheap or tawdry. In Moshfegh’s hands, sex, sexuality, and sexual desire open the characters up, especially the men imagined here, for closer examination.

“Many of the women in these stories own their bodies forcefully, experiencing sexual pleasure as deeply private and personally empowering. But several men here, with embarrassing lack of self-awareness, tout their ‘beautiful’ bodies loudly or probe for sex inelegantly. Moshfegh burns open this masculine bluster with laser incisiveness, revealing its soft core: self-defeating self-aggrandizement. For the reader, these revelations will trigger out-loud laughter. But the author never mocks the characters in Homesick for Another World. Instead, Moshfegh delivers these truths with brilliant, stinging, ironic humor and sensitive care for her characters.”