I started a reading challenge, fifty books in a year’s time. I started at the beginning of Feb. Again — not big on resolutions. But I wanted to read more, and watch less shit that was making me neurotic and angry. I don’t have a list of books to knock out, just picking up what has interested me. What caught my eye this time was How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell.
Oddly enough, because I read xoJane and Vice, I’d never seen her work. Or rather I’d seen it, but my eyes had sailed over it. I wasn’t quite in the know about her, or what the point of her work was exactly. It took reading her memoir and subsequently digesting anything else of her’s I could get my hands on. Her memoir was different from the few I’ve read but shared a trait with two that come to mind Wasted: A Diary of Anorexia and Bulimia or Madness: A Memoir of BiPolar Disorder both by Marya Hornbacher. There is an honesty in Cat’s work that is absent from a lot of the work churned out in the glossy and digital rags we read these days. Blogs and vlogs of living your best life, leave certain notions of what a women’s best life should be… for Cat that at times was Angel Dust on the roof top of some fancy NYC hotel with friends I can’t imagine of the wealthy, gritty and all whom fall in between.
I was drawn in almost immediately; Cat reminds me of a few girls I’ve run into at parties. Literal Manic Pixies. They are fascinating to watch from afar. Like the first firefly in the summertime. You see it, and you wish to be apart of the light that shines from it… or the light that attracts it. Those are some of the memories Cat’s book inspired. It reminded me of my own travels across my beloved city in the wee hours, the crazy and famous people you can see at 2am. You can bump into a bag-lady or Lady Gaga if the stars align, that’s what Cat’s world feels like. But there’s always a grit there under it, like broken glass under your feet. You feel it, and it cuts you with every page flip.
Much like real life, no matter how glamorous you can get it. Unless you’re a deity like Beyonce, though who am I to know?
I combed through other reviews of the book as well. They lead me to other women journalists, bloggers, critics who struggled with their own addictions and their (morbid) fascinations with watching people self-destruct. The internet has become ripe with over-sharing stories and articles, sites dedicated entire sections to personal essays that sometimes cut too deep, revealed too much, hurt a little just to read. xoJane, where Cat would grow to infamy, made much of its own mark by doing these types of essays.
Reading essays like this help at times. Reading Cat’s book reminded me of reading Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel, a very honest take on depression and how a woman will try to cope both with and without therapeutic measures.
What I didn’t take away was a need to comfort or coddle her, a notion that’s very familiar in femme circles. You’ll read it in the comments of articles about drug use or drinking. There’s a tone of wanting to wrap someone up in a hug and protect them from themselves. Cat makes it clear she’s aware of what she’s doing. In the clearest of tones she realizes when she’s teetering on the brink of another downward slope in her addiction. She knows when she’s trying to bottom out, when she’s trying to work towards the edge. Cliché, but that’s refreshing from a woman’s perspective. Men are allowed to write about and live out their self-destruction. It’s admired almost to the point of canonization.
It did cross my mind many times that her priviledge allowed a lot of what happened to her, and what she’s experienced. It’s been pointed out both by herself and other critics that she’s never really bottomed out, there’s always a silken pillow for her to land on… this last one was a 500k book deal that almost killed her (heroin overdose and several years of the up and down binge and purge of addiction). She acknowledges that she’s a silver-spoon bred white girl from D.C. in the way Gwenyth Paltrow does, where you’re not sure if that makes them more or less tolerable.
All that said, I’d have a drink with Cat.
Book 1 of 50.