My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Moshfegh) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to start a discussion of MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION … then take off on your own:

1. What do you think of our narrator? Is she mentally ill? Or is she the sanest character you've ever come across in literature? Perhaps she's something in between.

2. On the surface, our narrator seems to have it all—good looks, money, education, and a Manhattan apartment. What then is her reason for wanting to sleep the year away? Her motive isn't suicide, so what is she trying to escape … or find?

3. Follow-up to Question 2: The narrator says she's seeking "great transformation." But what kind of transformation—from what … into what?

4. Talk about the state of the world (at least in the U.S) during the year the narrator is checking out; how does the author portray the era? We know that 9/11 is around the corner. Why might the author have chosen to set her story in this particular time, in New York City, and right before the World Trade Center cataclysm? In what way does your knowledge of what is to come (9/11) affect your reading experience or your understanding of the book?

5. Did some (many?) of the narrator's observations and quips ("Caffeine was my exercise") get you laughing? How would you describe her type of humor?

6. If you were Reva, the narrator's friend, what would you do or say to the narrator? What do you make of Reva?

7. Why does the narrator decide that if she can't make art (she tells Reva she has no talent), then she'll become art. What about her project makes it "art"? Once the public sees the completed film, what is their reaction? How would you have reacted?

8. Why does Png Xi want to film the narrator as she burns her birth certificate? The narrator thinks, "He needed fodder for analysis. But the project was beyond issues of 'identity' and 'society' and 'institutions.' Mine was a quest for a new spirit." What does the narrator mean—and why is her "project beyond" identity and society, etc.?

9. Toward the end, the narrator does experience a transformation. She attends the Metropolitan Museum of Art and begins to re-engage. Talk about the nature of that change. How has she been altered?

10. Follow-up to Question 9: As she looks at the paintings of great artists hanging in the museum, the narrator wonders about the artists' lives and whether "they understood …that beauty and meaning had nothing to do with one another." She wonders if the painters would have preferred spending their days walking through fields of grass or being in love. What do those notions mean? Are these thoughts the transformation she hoped to achieve? Do her thoughts suggest a new understanding of life or of consciousness …or of what?

11. Despite the museum guard's warning to step back, the narrator reaches out to touch the canvass of a painting. Why is touching so important?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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