Award-winning author Ottessa Moshfegh and writer, director, actor, and visual artist John Waters joined us for a discussion of Moshfegh’s latest novel. In Lapvona (named a most anticipated book of 2022 by the Millions, Harper’s Bazaar, New York magazine, LitHub, and AV Club) a motherless shepherd boy finds himself the unlikely pivot of a power struggle in a village within a medieval fiefdom buffeted by natural disasters. In this deliriously quirky tale, the veil between blindness and sight, life and death, the natural world and the spirit world proves to be very thin indeed.
By Ottessa Moshfegh
Published by Penguin Random House
Little Marek, the abused and delusional son of the village shepherd, never knew his mother—his father told him she died in childbirth. One of Marek’s few consolations is his enduring bond with the blind village midwife, Ina, who suckled him when he was a baby, as she did many of the village’s children. Ina’s gifts extend beyond childcare: for some people, her ability to receive transmissions of sacred knowledge from the natural world is a godsend. For others, Ina’s home in the woods outside of the village is a place to fear and to avoid, a godless place.
Among the villagers is Father Barnabas, the town priest and lackey for the depraved lord and governor, Villiam, whose hilltop manor contains a secret embarrassment of riches. The people’s desperate need to believe that there are powers that be who have their best interests at heart is put to a cruel test by Villiam and the priest, especially in this year of record drought and famine. But when fate brings Marek into violent proximity to the lord’s family, new and occult forces arise to upset the old order. By year’s end, the veil between blindness and sight, life and death, the natural world and the spirit world, will prove to be very thin indeed.
Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Death in Her Hands, her second and third novels, were New York Times bestsellers. She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World and a novella, McGlue. She lives in Southern California.
Photo Credit: Jake Belcher
John Waters is a writer, a film director, an actor, and a visual artist best known for his films, including Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, and Serial Mom. He is the author of the national bestsellers Role Models, Carsick, and Mr. Know-It-All. His spoken-word shows This Filthy World and A John Waters Christmas continue to be performed around the world. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.