Everyday last week, I listened to Cat Marnell read the audiobook of her drug-addiction memoir, “How to Murder You Life”, while commuting to and from work. Cat herself doesn’t bother me, she isn’t hateful or anything and she would probably be fun to talk to, but I really didn’t like this book. Her reading it made it even more insufferable. Every time she wrote about screaming, and there is so much fucking screaming in this book, she would scream so obnoxiously I had to shut it off or skip ahead.
I kept listening to her read because I wanted a better understanding of how much work and pain goes into writing a shitty book. I know vaguely about this from the little writing I have done. I have a lot of fear around writing/finishing anything more ambitious and that typically shows up in the question “What do I want?”
For now, I hear Cat's voice in my head when I ask that question. Hers seems to have taken over my own inner voice. Is she that powerful a writer? No, I am just a personality sponge and am so susceptible to other people’s irrationality, carelessness, justification and attempts at humor for attention that I immediately adopted it as my own.
Cat and I are very close in age, which is too bad only because I would have definitely gotten more out of this book if I were 16. That’s not meant to be dis. She is successful at writing instructively, hence the “How to” of the title, hoping that her disgusting stories will deter others from going down her same path. It probably wouldn’t have stopped me from becoming an addict myself, but it would have made me consider a little more fully the question of who I was trying to become.
I was completely influenced by the same magazine culture that Cat describes being obsessed with in the book. I was also desperate to be drunk or high at all times, from a young age. Once I got sober, almost 3 years ago, I started to see how much time I was spending talking to myself in the voices of other people, aligning my ambitions with theirs, totally out of touch with my own self, my own ideas. By the time I reached the point where Cat is protesting hard against XOJane’s body-positive, real-girls-only, stance on beauty, I became more gentle toward what I had been listening to. Cat wanted the unattainable glamour of magazine culture to be the Right Way, the same way I wanted...someone else to answer the question of what I wanted, for me. We nearly kill ourselves to attain an ideal or idea that either doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter to anyone but us. It’s incredibly hard work to actually have to change your mind.
I am glad I read the afterword, which I felt was the best part of the book. She seems to have a clearer idea of what she is writing here and acknowledges the difficult process she had putting the book together. That was helpful for me to hear right now, which is why I will disregard the rest of the book and appreciate only what she said about pushing through humiliation, self doubt and despair to finish what she started.