celebrity shopping

What Ottessa Moshfegh Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist. Photo: Andrew Casey

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and electric toothbrush. We asked author Ottessa Moshfegh — whose newest novel, Lapvona, is out now — about her trigger-point massage tool, the incense she describes as smelling holy, and the dental treats she buys in bulk for her four dogs.

I have all these eye issues, but the big one is that I’m both nearsighted and my eyes are misaligned. So I need these special prisms to go into my glasses so that when I read I’m not seeing everything double. These frames have been the best in terms of comfort. I actually forget that I’m wearing them. There’s something about the shape and the way it covers my range of vision that makes it effortless to see, whereas usually it takes a great amount of effort and strain. Now I’m on my third pair. One pair, a really lightweight tortoiseshell, was eaten by my dogs. So I got them in blue tortoiseshell, and I liked it so much that I got another pair in a violet color.

I wasn’t into incense until a couple of years ago. Then I started trying all these different kinds as a substitution for a meditation practice, which I never really got into, but maybe one day. I find that if I just light incense, my mood shifts and the way I look at the space of my house will shift. I often burn it in my bedroom when I’m working, and I like this particular kind because it smells like church to me — and I’m not someone who grew up going to church. There’s something holy about it. The house I live in is made partly with recycled materials, including repurposed stones from a church that was destroyed in an earthquake. So the church vibes of the house really match this incense. I can tell the house likes it, and there’s just a good vibe when it’s burning. It smells to me like really fragrant dirt and herbs and some kind of resin. I bought it for the first time when I was Christmas shopping in Los Feliz, in L.A. I went into some store that was selling really overpriced linen shirts and coffee cups and bath mats. They also had this incense. I think it was the cheapest thing in the store, so I tried it and I’ve just been buying it in bulk ever since.

I discovered this thing years ago, but I didn’t actually buy one until COVID because I couldn’t see my physical therapist for my chronic back pain. If I had my way, I would go to my myofascial-release therapist three times a week. She just pushes on these trigger points until the fascia connecting my muscles relaxes. It’s the only thing that has worked, and it took me a long time to figure that out. So when I couldn’t go, I got this tool and just started using it on myself. What’s cool is, because it has two semi-circles, you can get it in the point you want to release and then you set your arms in the other semi-circle and just relax and hold it there. So you can be passive while also putting pressure. I would do it all day if I didn’t have to use my hands. Using a computer doesn’t help the situation, but I also have pretty significant scoliosis. I was in a back brace as an adolescent, and I still have frequent flare-ups. Last week, I had to cancel all this stuff because I wrenched my neck in my sleep. That kind of thing happens all the time, so this tool is part of my daily existence.

This bag is huge. I could bring it on a plane as a carry-on, and it could hold the entire contents of my suitcase. It’s seriously spacious and beautiful. I love the texture of the weave; it’s very flexible and really chic. More important, the practicality of this thing, without it looking like an ugly beach bag or something, is fantastic. It’s nice because the straps aren’t that long, so it’s not swaying around. It just sits there, and you can tuck your elbow against this little leather piece that looks like a tiny purse. Sometimes with these bags, the straps are so thin that they dig into your shoulder, but these are very comfortable. I also just love these designers. I would buy everything I could from them if I could afford it.

I am not the kind of dog mom who excessively brushes my dog’s teeth, because they hate it. But they are obsessed with these. If they hear me take the box down from the shelf, they come running. What they don’t know is that the Greenies are actually good for their oral health. So it’s a win-win. I have four dogs, and they always get one of these after a walk. So even though I have them on subscription at Amazon, I still run out and have to buy them at the store. Jewely is a beautiful blond cattle dog who’s 12. Walter is part Shih Tzu, Chihuahua, terrier, and probably a hundred other things. He is very special looking and has very crooked, crazy-looking teeth and bangs. He has a cute natural hairstyle. Then we have two little ones; they’re about a year old, and they happen to be Walter’s niece and nephew. Their names are Blondie, after Debbie Harry, and Frankie, who is probably the most pensive dog I have ever known and is black with a white bow tie. They all sleep with me.

I can’t believe that not everybody has one of these memberships because you get access to some of the best movies ever made from all over the world. There’s this filmmaker named Ramin Bahrani, who did The White Tiger, which came out on Netflix in 2021 and is amazing, but I discovered him on Criterion when I watched his movie Chop Shop, which is from 2007. It’s just amazing social realism and unlike any movie I’d ever seen before. It was so incredibly moving. Then, more recently, I discovered this filmmaker named Leilah Weinraub. She made this movie called Shakedown. It’s a documentary I think she filmed over years about the last lesbian strip club in Los Angeles. It is staggering, a work of real genius. And it was the first film ever to be on Pornhub, I think. It’s absolutely fascinating and totally worth seeing. It has a little bit of everything. It’s beautiful. I renewed my Criterion membership at the beginning of COVID. When I was revising my new book, I got an artist residency in Wyoming. This was during COVID, so I wasn’t talking to anyone; I was eating all my meals by myself. I was just working all day and then every night I would watch a movie on Criterion, and I discovered so many filmmakers — like Mike Leigh, I think I watched all of Mike Leigh’s films. It’s cool because you can search for movies by decade, country, or language. So you could be like, Oh, I want to learn about Czech cinema, and just watch everything from Czechoslovakia, you know?

I cannot use any other face wash. I have really oily skin that gets very dry at the same time. I had a lot of breakouts when I was younger, and just in the past three years I’ve finally figured out what works for my skin. I can use this Obagi face wash three or four times a day and it doesn’t dry out my skin. It’s just extremely soothing but actually gets the gunk out of my pores. I went to my dermatologist, and I was like, “Look, I tried Cetaphil, I tried this and that and it stripped my skin, and now I have eczema.” She just gave me a sample and that was it.

I am pajama obsessed, and this, again, is a relatively new thing since COVID. I was not raised having pajama-pajamas. It was more like you always wear a really big T-shirt or something. Then I discovered the absolute pleasure of going to sleep in supercomfortable matching cotton pajamas. I probably have, I don’t know, 15 sets of pajamas at this point because I wear them constantly. During the pandemic, I didn’t wear clothes, I wore my pajamas and put on new pajamas, so that became my full-time wardrobe. I just got this set. Actually, I think I’d had them before and maybe I misplaced the top. I also have really similar J.Crew pajamas in light blue, navy and white, pink, purple, and this orange color that my husband calls my prison pajamas.

These to me are the gold standard of fountain pens. When I’m signing books and stuff, I like using it because the ink flows nice and smooth, but it also has some variation. If someone hands me a Sharpie, I’m just, like, no, because then it’ll look just like a stamp. It’s not a very sensitive writing tool. But the Pilot is great. I use it when I’m taking notes. I can also use it to draw or doodle, which I do a lot of. I think I discovered this pen at a book signing where someone gave it to me to use. I think I asked if I could keep it, and they said yes. Then I just started buying them.

I’ve been keeping paper planners since I was in middle school, and I was pretty committed to using this other kind that has more of a flexible cover that looks like canvas. But then at the end of last year, my close friend gifted me one of these, and I just thought it was really pretty. I like the shape; it’s wide, so I can actually write out everything I need to do in a day. You open it up and you can see your entire week. It’s very handy, and it has this plastic cover so my dogs can’t really destroy it — though they’ve tried. This is my first one, but I think I’m a convert at this point.

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What Ottessa Moshfegh Can’t Live Without