How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

I received a copy of this book from our local bookstore’s Blind Date with a Book section, where the book was covered in brown mailing wrap with nothing but the author’s quote about the book written in Sharpie:

“The bald Britney Spears of the literary world.”

Well, how could I resist?!

First, let’s take a look at the totally different covers for the hardcover and paperback versions of this book- fascinating, right? Publicists and cover designers out there are doing a great job of diversifying the covers. I think each cover conveys a little something different, don’t you?

Image result for how to murder your life
Image result for how to murder your life paperback

I was expecting a deep dive into addiction, and I certainly got that. What I didn’t expect was a deep dive into the world of fashion magazines, exactly at the time when I was becoming obsessed with them in the 2000s.

I absolutely adored Lucky magazine when it came out, and saved my babysitting money to subscribe. My mother couldn’t understand how I could love to read about fashion and beauty I couldn’t afford, but I genuinely enjoyed the writing. I still reference The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style  about once a month (I recommend getting a used copy!). Sure enough, the author is actually photographed for the book, and references the book launch during one of her relapses back to drug abuse.

Marnell’s energy sparkles as she climbs the ladder of magazine writing. I can feel her energy through the pages when she gets her first job at Lucky working with the goddess of beauty writing,  Jean Godfrey June (swoon!).  June acted as a mentor and, in my opinion, a guardian angel for Marnell as she shifted in and out of sobriety. Through reading, I could feel the buzz of Marnell’s drive to want to climb and climb that career ladder, while also not wanting to disappoint her mentor as she flipped backwards with each relapse. This really hit me, because I know what’s like to NOT want to disappoint someone I respect professionally.

Marnell’s writing is refreshing. She acknowledges a privileged upbringing, which allowed her to financially sustain the expensive drugs she was so heavily addicted to (and New York rent, which isn’t cheap my friends). She uses humor to talk about some very heavy subjects. Just about every page touches on depression, bulimia, substance abuse, sexual assault- not light reading. It’s uncomfortable, but her confessional, self-deprecating exposure is surprisingly uplifting.

In 2016, I read Sarah Hepola’s alcoholism memoir, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.  Hepola’s did such a good job recalling the comfort of addiction. Feeling lonely? Take a drink. Feeling anxious? Take a drink. Her true voice shined through the memoir.

Both Hepola and Marnell are courageously talking about how addiction can sometimes be….fun? Exciting? Feels like coping? If we acknowledge how addiction is appealing, instead of only focusing on the negative effects, it builds a bridge to help through honesty. If drugs did nothing for users…people wouldn’t be addicts!

One thing missing from Marnell’s memoir? Dates! The story is so well-told, but I wish I could’ve followed along with the timing. That being said, I completely understand that, as with any addiction, time is blurred and dates are tough. The narrative is what’s important.

Rating: 4 stars

Further Reading:

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