The Most Awkward Author Event Ever- Ottessa Moshfegh

Last week I went to LA to see Ottessa Moshfegh in conversation with author Amanda Stern through the ALOUD program at the Central Library. I have read two of Moshfegh's novels, My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Eileen, both fascinating. It's always, always, always a treat to be able to sneak away for an evening, especially to see writers speak! 

Typically, I'd recount tidbits of wisdom from the author and how I was inspired, but you guys. This was the weirdest interaction I've ever seen between a writer and interviewer, and I've probably been to like 35 (or more) of these things. It was like watching a bad first date that makes you feel simultaneously uncomfortable and just totally sucks you in. The chemistry was just completely wrong and it felt like Stern didn't know how to compensate and Moshfegh was consciously refusing to do so. Stern would ask a long-winded question and Moshfegh would either answer shortly or bluntly say, "what did you say?" At first I thought it was a microphone issue, but it was just... her. The questions weren't fabulous and the answers were terse and brief. A few times the pauses were so awkward and long that I thought one of them (money on Moshfegh) would walk off stage. The audience Q & A was so much better- the author was much more kind, elaborated, and seemed more relaxed. 

It was a really interesting experience, but, frankly, I was disappointed in Moshfegh. She's done these before! Could she not just take control and offer some anecdotes or just extend her answers by a few sentences? I know that there is likely more to the story- she was having a bad day personally, she was really nervous, she has issues with Stern, she wasn't feeling well, she hates book tours, etc... But, man. I drove over 90 minutes to get there, on a work night, had to battle downtown LA rush hour traffic, and paid to park. I had a hunch she was going to be quirky and intellectual, but cold, quiet and borderline rude I was not prepared for. 

I ran into a man as I was leaving in the parking garage who had also gone, and he said the same thing! It wasn't just me! I don't regret going and am still a fan of her writing, I just wasn't super impressed. I would actually really like to attend another event with her, just to see if the outcome was the same. 


  1. I had a similar experience two years ago when I saw Joyce Carol Oates on a panel at the Melbourne Writers Festival - she gave one word answers to most of what she was asked. It was rude and awkward. I figure, if they don't like those events, don't do them - there are plenty of authors who would happily talk about their work.

  2. That's so very odd!!! Of course I had to Google to see if I could find some clue...a hint...maybe one of them would say something snarky about the other on Twitter or Insta. Couldn't find a thing. They both seem like very nice, interesting, creative people. WTF ladies?