Whenever I write a book review I remind myself an actual human being wrote this book-remember to be empathetic in your review, be fair, be firm.
But when it comes to Cat Marnell’s memoir How To Murder Your Life…well, screw being nice. As the kids say, “I can’t even.”
Now I’m a pretty caring and compassionate person, especially when it comes to someone in a cruel grip of addiction and mental health issues. I’ve read countless books about people dealing with these issues and I know people real life who have dealt with these issues and have offered an open-mind and a shoulder to cry on.
Knowing a smidge about Marnell due to my interest and experience in both fashion and media I picked up How to Murder Your Life thinking it would be about a young woman’s harrowing journey through addiction while trying to make a living two very challenging industries while also dealing with personal issues of family, education, friends, love and various mundane tasks like paying the bills and making sure the fridge is full.
I thought How To Murder Your Life would convey how Marnell finally realized she had a problem and had a someone or several someones intervene and tell her she needs to get help. I thought it would be a tale of Marnell agreeing to get help, go to rehab and at turns deal with breakthroughs and breakdowns finally arriving on some type of sobriety and doing everything in her power to stay that way. I expected wisdom, clarity, vulnerability and redemption. I was at the very least, hoping for a well-written book.
I got none of these things.
Marnell grew up posh and privileged in the DC area. Her family is both loving and at times infuriating. Marnell, as a child, seems to be silly, fun, creative and like any kid, a bit of a handful. Well, aren’t we all? From a very young age Marnell is interested in the fashion/beauty industry and develops a passion for magazines, going to the point of creating her own ‘zine.
When she reaches her teens she decides to attend boarding school and goes into a tailspin, some of it where she is truly a victim (she loses her virginity to what seems to be date rape), but most of it where she is a willing and enthusiastic participant. Lazy, obnoxious, and fully entitled, Marnell barely graduates high school, can’t quite get into a proper college and starts addiction, thinking it makes her dangerous, edgy and glamorous like she’s the Edie Sedgwick of the modern age.
But despite her lack of education, talent and mastery of anything other than taking an alphabet of any drug she comes across, Marnell gets an enviable gig working for Lucky magazine. Much of her easy entry is due to being privileged, white, thin and spoiled and enabled by her immediate circle. Granted, this isn’t exactly rare in the world of media and fashion.
Thus, Marnell continues to be a complete trainwreck, professionally, personally and romantically. From her early days with Lucky to the latter parts of How to Murder your life where Marnell is working for the website xoJane under the “legendary” Jane Pratt.
Drugged out her gourd, Marnell’s life is a collection of missed deadlines and missed periods. But instead of seemingly being horrified by her life, she seems almost proud. And sadly, she is coddled by nearly everyone in her realm (and as How to Murder Your Life reaches its conclusion, Marnell is still a fucking junkie!
Well, isn’t that a trip? Is How to Murder Your Life well-written? No. Marnell’s writing is distraught, callow, unenlightened and so purple Prince would probably say, “Okay, that’s enough.” And the amount of name dropping of celebs, high priced cosmetics and designer duds just made me roll my eyes. Your not only one to apply MAC to your lips, Marnell. It doesn’t make your special (As I type this I’m wearing Chanel no. 5. Yes, you may touch the hem of my ancient Limited sweater).
Fortunately, there are countless of books about drug addiction that are worthy of your time. How to Murder is clearly not one of them.