How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir, by Cat Marnell
Ok whoa. So many things about this book. It wasn’t one of my book club books but it would make a good book club book as there is a lot to discuss. And at my book club we always recommend books to each other, so I’ll be telling them to read it so we can discuss it!
First of all, if you are an addict, an unstable or recovering addict or alcoholic where any one little thing to tip you back into addiction/alcoholism, or have an eating disorder, then DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone younger than 18 either, unless it’s they are a really mature teenager that doesn’t have an eating disorder and is basically afraid of all drugs.
As someone who has done enough partying in my day (though NOTHING as crazy as these stories), this book is as real and raw as it gets. It actually reminded me a lot of James Frey’s addiction/rehab memoir A Million Little Pieces (which yes, he went on Oprah because a few of the details in the book he said he “embellished” or changed to protect people’s privacy, I won’t get into that because I thought it was a great story and still worth reading), but the books are similar in a few ways.
They are both crazy stories. Like crazy crazy. In my opinion, both are page-turners. Marnell’s book was more repetitive, as she states — similar to how addition is a cycle, but with both books you just want to reach into the story and shake them and say NOOOOOOOOO, DON’T DO THAT!!!!! I read Frey’s book so long ago I don’t remember all the details, but regardless, that is the most similar book I’ve ever read to How to Murder Your Life.
From here on, I’m going to say SPOILER ALERT because you should read the book before you read anything below.
The one major letdown about the book is that usually these types of memoirs are written because the person has changed, is better, and is telling their story with perspective to help others that were in their position. This is not that story. At the end of the book Cat even says that she is still using drugs, pills only — not the hard stuff, and that she does still drink.
Even though I wish she wasn’t using drugs anymore, I will say that the book was fascinating me to me and kept me turning each page. I finished the book in a day or two. So, let’s discuss.
HOW DID SHE NOT GET FIRED FROM HER JOB?
Being someone who has a degree in journalism (emphasis in magazine), and dreamed of working in magazines in NYC but never did, that alone made this book more interesting to me. Just to learn more about the job that could have been but never was for me was enough to make it enticing to read. Then add drugs and crazy stories and I’m hooked.
Cat worked at or wrote for Nylon, Teen Vogue, Glamour, Lucky, xoJane, and Vice. Mostly writing about beauty or her personal experiences. From being raised in a wealthy family, to boarding schools, abortions, pill addiction, bulimia, hard drugs, and constant partying she has a lot of experiences to pull from. The ones she can remember anyway.
HER ADDICTION VS. AMBITION
One of the main themes in her life was the struggle between the addiction cycle and her ambition to work in magazines, specifically in beauty. As someone who would have killed for her job (when I was younger), to know that someone so careless, that showed up to work high, or didn’t show up, called in sick, had so many issues, didn’t shower for days, and couldn’t even write one story (speaking about her time at Lucky) — I just can’t believe they didn’t fire her and hire someone who would show up and do a good job and wasn’t high all the time.
I’d be so curious to hear her boss at Lucky, Jean Godfrey-June’s honest side of all of these stories. Which I doubt we will ever know.
THE GLORIFICATION OF DRUG USE
Of all of the things that bother me, this is why I don’t recommend certain people read this book. She talks about her drug use and partying so fondly that it’s disturbing. She also tells young people to try it! Ah! The book was even dedicated to “all the party girls”.
In an interview with the The New York Times she said, “I wrote this book really for younger people, for the girl I used to be.” Those are exactly the girls who should NOT read this book! But for anyone else, it’s fascinating.
INSURANCE & DOCTOR SHOPPING
Ugh. It’s scary how easy it is to abuse insurance (no doubt making it more expensive for EVERYONE) and obtain medications. The way Cat would go to different doctors and then get the prescriptions filled at different pharmacies — and even have her INTERNS go pick them up! I mean, sometimes my intern takes my dog on a walk for me, but PICKING UP YOUR ADDICTION PILLS!?!?! I just can’t.
Oh, Marco. He deserves his own section. I was screaming at her in my head KICK HIM OUT! DON’T ANSWER HIS CALLS! MOVE AND DON’T TELL HIM WHERE YOU LIVE! It’s so hard to understand why she would continually let him in her life after he treated her so terribly all the time.
The part about sex that stuck out to me the most was when she was talking about having sex in cabs with promoters. She said in the book, “You know how it is when you’re nineteen! Promoters are always taking their dicks out in the backseats of cabs and pulling your on their laps or biting your nipple through your wifebeater or something comparably unspeakable, and you feel very embarrassed that the taxi driver can see and hear you but you let it keep happening anyway. Why? It’s all just a part of being young in New York, I guess.”
Um no. I know TONS of girls in NYC who that was NOT their reality at 19! NINETEEN!!! No, you DON’T JUST LET IT KEEP HAPPENING ANYWAY. Also, gross. Now I’ll never be able to get into a NYC cab without thinking of that. Disturbing.
And the story about how she went home with a guy who already established violence in a club toward her, he said he was a guitarist, she gets back to his place (where there are exactly zero guitars) and another tiny man jumps out and starts masturbating so she grabs she clothes and runs away. WTF!!!???
It just makes me wonder what percentage of people are quote unquote normal, and what percentage not normal. And how many of the not normal ones do I know and come into contact with everyday. Yikes. I don’t want to know. SMH.
EVERYONE SHE TALKS ABOUT & MY CURIOSITIES
In the NYT interview, she also said, “I feel so embarrassed having this sleazy book sometimes. Did I just sell out everyone in my life including my parents?” So she feels like she’s taken advantage of these people by writing so much about them and getting paid a lot of money for the story.
While reading her book I kept thinking about everyone she was talking about — her parents, her sister, Jean Godfrey-June. Would they read her book? What would they think of it? What is their version of all these events? Would they be embarrassed? I mean I don’t know her parents especially wouldn’t be embarrassed by it. How would these stories becoming public affect these people and their lives?
I also want to hear more about her sister. What was that place she was sent to like? How does she feel about it now? Was Jean Godfrey-June embarrassed by or upset about anything Cat revealed in the book? Did JGJ get to read an advance copy and give her feedback on how she’d be portrayed? Not that it was bad, Cat obviously loved JGJ and she seems like such a loving, caring, understanding person but still! All I think about every time I see something to do with JGJ is dewy dewy dewy!
I’m not a huge fan of the title of the book. I just feel like it uses the word MURDER to grab attention. I feel like there are better titles and this one was just the most sensational or something.
WHERE SHE IS NOW
When you get to the end of the book and realize that she is still taking pills and drinking, while she claims to not be doing hard drugs, it is disheartening for sure, but at least it’s honest. That at the very least is respectable. She just is who she is and seems honest about it all. It’s not like she’s saying she’s clean but then doing drugs in private.
I feel like she hasn’t fully reformed because she never hit rock bottom. Even with all the horrible things she went through — many self-inflicted — it never seems like she hit rock bottom because there was always someone there to pay for her lifestyle (her parents, her grandmother).
I wonder if she would have appreciated rehab, taken it seriously, and NOT do drugs now if she had hit a rock bottom like other people without means probably do a lot more quickly. She probably never will. While I found the book entertaining I wish there was some sort of lesson or resolution. Maybe she’ll have another book to write in 20 years.
The book is entertaining to say the least. It’s easy to follow and having not lived a life like hers I could not put it down. It would be a great book club discussion book, but because of the glorification of drugs and such I don’t recommend it for young people or anyone battling addiction. Cat seems very honest and you just want to help her when she’s making bad decisions. So, I recommend it to most people.
I read that there was another 1/3 of the book that was cut that she might publish in another way. If/when it comes out, I’d read it immediately. I also read that she might do some sort of TV show or something. I’d watch it.
There are rumors that she spent her book advance (supposedly $500,000) on drugs already. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but I can’t say that I’m not curious to know! Also, is it just me or does that seems like a HUGE book advance!? I guess Simon & Schuster is positive this book will sell A LOT (I think it will). They did send the book to me and obviously it was entertaining enough for me to write an entire post about it (I don’t do that for all books).
If you read this book PLEASE jump in with your thoughts in the comments. I’m SO CURIOUS! Also, especially if you are someone who is an addict or recovering from addiction or an eating disorder, or Cat’s stories somehow mirror your life or someone close to you — so curious to hear your thoughts. Or if you work in magazines in NYC, know Cat, know of Cat, etc. I want to hear all the things.
This book was provided to me by Simon & Schuster. I do not guarantee any coverage for books/products sent to me for review. Please email me for permission before sending your products or books. Thank you.