Short Thoughts is a new feature on the blog that will highlight short fiction, essays and creative nonfiction that I have been reading.
Bettering Myself by Ottessa Moshfegh
Featured in Spring 13 issue of The Paris Review.
This story is a heartrending snapshot of an alcoholic depressive who teaches in a Ukrainian school in New York. The story opens with delicate descriptions of the school and as the tale progresses it becomes darker and littered with seedy ideals. It’s a blackly funny story that highlights the mannerisms and behaviour that comes to this woman in her life.
The desperation in her life is hinted at in the second paragraph “I kept a down filled sleeping bag in the back of the class” it is revealed after that this is to sleep off constant hangovers between classes. It goes further and spirals into a trough filled with booze and mistaken sex.
Her interactions with students often brings the comedy as she is truthful with them, blunt in fact. She is open about her occasional forays with sex and often puts her head on her desk and asks her failing students for help. The atmosphere of the story is summed up easily “The floor was black-and-piss-colored checkerboard linoleum. The walls were shiny, cracking, piss-colored walls.”
The writing was tight and witty, the story entertaining, but I wish it lasted slightly longer. The ending was rather abrupt but fitting for the story, I just wanted to see more of the downward slope of the central character. I came away very interested in reading more from Moshfegh and I hope it follows the same vein as this short piece.