I remember just before Amy Winehouse died thinking “she’ll be ok, when you’re that rich, that famous, and that obviously spinning out, people are bound to keep a closer watch on you. If paparazzi can follow you 24-7, surely any bottoming out will happen in view of someone who can help.”
I don’t know how to review this book but I am really worried for the author.
Cat Marnell’s don’t-give-a-fucketry was what drew me to the book, I hadn’t ever read her writing before (that I know of; in the mid aughts it seemed like I’d never have enough time to read all the interesting stuff on the internet, and you don’t pay attention to any one drop of water in a downpour) but a snippet of this memoir made me admire her attitude and candor. I forget the exact excerpt, but it had to do with Marnell actively making counterproductive choices while addicted, and I was impressed that she was telling the unvarnished truth without retroactively judging her past self from a sober state. A lot of addiction narratives find the narrators dissociate from their bad behavior and not examine the reasons they either did what they did, or got to a position where they relinquished control; Marnell made no distinction between past and present Cat.
That seems to be because very little has changed. There’s no epiphany here, which I suppose is fair; it’s not called “why you murdered your life,” but without a deeper understanding of why each success was accompanied by self-destructive behavior, Marnell’s story feels like it’s not really over. Her conclusion is that she’s doing fewer drugs (and I honestly think the US substance problem is in part due to an “all or nothing” mentality where drugs and drink are concerned, and for a lot of people moderation is key) but this doesn’t feel like the result of a turning point, it just feels like the relative calm between the binges she’s laid out as a pattern in this book.
It’s a funny book too, you can see why Marnell was a successful writer, but the longer the book goes on the more your chuckles make you feel like an accomplice to her self destruction.
I don’t think every addiction story needs to end with total sobriety, but I’m not sure this one ended without the addiction. I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t rate this book until I have some idea whether it’s a comedy or tragedy.