Ottessa Moshfegh survived lockdown by writing a novel | Rebecca Nicholson

The author wrote to survive while most of the rest of us eventually settled for doing as little as possible

Despite the recent vaccine delays, I remain optimistic about the prospect of this third lockdown being the last, though I also wonder if this new positive attitude is blind, desperate faith rather than reason.

It brings to mind an article I once read about plane crash survivors, who recalled that when it was obvious something was wrong, far from the panicked screaming and hysteria you might expect, most of the passengers fell into an eerie, stunned silence. Third lockdown certainly has been the worst of the three, without so much as a dramatic loo roll shortage to spice things up. The people around me have found it a tough slog that has been getting tougher. “How are you?” text messages now get a “fine, I think?” in response. Nobody seems to know how they are.

In a short piece for Vox, as part of a clever look at people who created work that seemed to predict the pandemic and its circumstances, the author Ottessa Moshfegh wrote about how sales of her novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation had gone up significantly. The book, about a woman who tries to drug herself into sleeping through 12 months of her life, struck a chord with readers. (If they thought that was prophetic, they should try her latest, Death in Her Hands, in which an isolated woman passes her lonely days walking her dog and getting fixated on an increasingly irrational project; this is not dissimilar to my own “knitting era”.) Moshfegh revealed in her piece: “I also wrote an entire novel during this period. I needed to. To survive.”

I find myself envious of productivity like this. I feel lazier, now, than I have ever felt before. At the beginning, I had put a positive spin on enforced down time. I signed up for online classes, I thought about starting a zine. In those early days, I was disciplined, and did Yoga With Adriene. But as summer came, and washed into autumn, which washed into winter, and as we all trudged on, stuck in the same place, in the same routine, missing our families, it became harder. Conversations with friends were more spaced out, because what was there to say? How are you? Fine? We think?

Anyone who has managed to be productive during this time is my hero. Moshfegh wrote a novel to survive, and I look forward to reading it. I set an alarm and went for a lot of walks. Ultimately, I had to stop feeling guilty about the descent of idleness, but summer can’t come soon enough.

Jodie Comer: perfect timing for Villanelle’s vanishing trick

Jodie Comer as Villanelle in Killing Eve
Bowing out: Jodie Comer as Villanelle in Killing Eve. Photograph: BAFTA/PA

Few shows have been as simultaneously entertaining and infuriating as Killing Eve, which has announced that its fourth season will film in summer and be on TV in 2022 and, oh, by the way, it will also be its last. Naturally, fans were upset that the show is coming to an end, but I think it is a classy move, a Villanelle-like flourish; the assassin has many good qualities, despite her murder-lust, and I suspect that leaving a party at just the right moment is one of them.

The show has made a star out of Jodie Comer, and given Sandra Oh a role that equals, if not surpasses, her Grey’s Anatomy gig, and even when I struggled with some of it, I made a point of watching every episode, as soon as I could. Only Masterchef and Drag Race UK (bing bang bong!) pull that kind of dedication out of me. But there’s nothing worse than a show limping on past its best, and I wish more had the courage to pull the plug in their prime. Imagine if Homeland or 24, or even Lost had ended with a bang instead of meandering to a close. Four seasons is a neat amount of time in which to finally wrap up the will-they-won’t-they storyline with some kind of definitive resolution, rather than keeping it blurry for the sake of longevity. There is talk of a Killing Eve spin-off or even spin-offs in development, but if it doesn’t involve Comer in a fabulous clown costume ruining a child’s birthday party each week, they’re missing a trick.

Brickbats and bouquets could await Glenn Close

Glenn Close in a scene from Hillbilly Elegy
Glenn Close in a scene from Hillbilly Elegy. Photograph: Lacey Terrell/AP

Glenn Close has joined an elite club, becoming only the third person in history to be nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Raspberry for the same film, yet more evidence of how silly these things can be. Close got a nod for best supporting actress and worst supporting actress for her portrayal of Mamaw in Ron Howard’s divisive Netflix melodrama, Hillbilly Elegy. This dubious nomination double-whammy last went to Amy Irving in 1983, for her role in Yentl, and before her, to James Coco, for Only When I Laugh in 1981.

The Razzies, spotlighting cinema at its worst, are an interesting proposition these days. They’re mean-spirited, sure, and as such, slightly anachronistic; these are sensitive times, though I always think Hollywood is a big boy, and can take it. Sandra Bullock famously and gamely turned up in person to collect her Razzie, as did Halle Berry, which shone a flattering light on both of them. But nobody has won an Oscar and a Razzie for the same part, so if Close – who has been nominated for an Academy Award eight times – pulls it off, she will have made history in more ways than one, which is enough of a reason to root for her.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jodie Comer: a Golden Globe snub, but her deadly talents will out | Rebecca Nicholson
It’s a travesty that her sympathetic psychopath Villanelle was overlooked for a nomination

Rebecca Nicholson

08, Dec, 2018 @3:15 PM

Article image
Julia Roberts: No Met ball bubbly? There's always the bath
With New York’s glitziest fashion event in lockdown, people rose to the occasion on social media

Rebecca Nicholson

09, May, 2020 @3:00 PM

Article image
Marina Warner is right – gold stars for writers leads to creative death | Rebecca Nicholson
The distinguished novelist and historian is right to deprecate the notion of creative people being ‘virtuous’

Rebecca Nicholson

10, Jun, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Tracee Ellis Ross: giving voice to a heroine for the pandemic era | Rebecca Nicholson
Daria Morgendorffer’s buddy Jodie grows up, thanks to the Black-ish star

Rebecca Nicholson

27, Jun, 2020 @3:30 PM

Article image
That’s quite enough silly walks from BBC comedy. New voices please | Rebecca Nicholson
The head of the corporation’s comedy department has promised us greater diversity. About time too

Rebecca Nicholson

23, Jun, 2018 @1:01 PM

Article image
Sorry, Ridley Scott, we just don’t think it’s safe to go back into the cinema | Rebecca Nicholson
The Last Duel director has blamed flighty ‘millennians’ for his latest epic film tanking, but maybe we’re not blockbuster-ready

Rebecca Nicholson

27, Nov, 2021 @3:00 PM

Article image
Why is it Hugh Grant gets to improve with age? | Rebecca Nicholson
The actor says his parts have grown more varied in recent years. If only his female colleagues could say the same

Rebecca Nicholson

19, May, 2018 @5:00 PM

Article image
Chloë Sevigny, leading the way in lockdown etiquette | Rebecca Nicholson

Rebecca Nicholson

02, May, 2020 @3:00 PM

Article image
Eddie Marsan, a class act speaking up for talent from all quarters | Rebecca Nicholson
Without special funding, acting will only be open to the wealthy and privileged

Rebecca Nicholson

18, Aug, 2018 @3:00 PM

Article image
Steven Knight is bound to send Peaky Blinders out with a bang | Rebecca Nicholson
Covid put paid to a seventh season, but a film version will give the gripping gangster show a fitting finale

Rebecca Nicholson

23, Jan, 2021 @5:30 PM