Written for The Fix. Cat Marnell gives the addiction memoir a makeover. The book is action-packed, shocking, darkly humorous and gut-wrenching. Embedded in every funny line is the heartbreaking tale of Adderall addiction and a world that enabled it for a “lucky” white girl of privilege. It’s a brave and courageous account of drug hell on earth.
Marnell is an American writer based in New York City. She’s a beauty who built her brand on writing about beauty for Lucky, xoJane, Vice, SELF, Nylon, and Glamour. She’s been labeled a “socialite” and “enfant terrible” based on her years of struggle with addiction. Her memoir held me rapt but made me so mad at addiction. How it robs us of dignity, common sense, self-esteem. I’m rooting for the author. She wrote an honest and deeply disturbing book about what can happen when one is lost in a world of drugs and enabled at every turn.
Her Twitter bio reads, “WRITER / EDITOR / PREDATOR / DOWNTOWN DISASTER.” And, yes, it’s in solid caps. I had been eager to hear about Marnell’s debut memoir with the inspired title, How to Murder Your Life. Marnell and I met up in Greenwich Village. When she walked in, I was surprised. She didn’t look as I’d expected. Every photo I had Googled showed her, now 34, as a Barbie-beautiful blonde in heavy make-up. The woman I met was brunette, childlike and vulnerable.
An Original Voice
“I had more issues than Vogue,” Marnell wrote in her book and described herself as “a weepy, wobbly, hallucination-prone insomniac” and a “tweaky self-mutilator.” Her brains, she wrote, were “so scrambled you could’ve ordered them for brunch at Sarabeth’s.”
Rooting for Her
When asked about her number one tip about turning weaknesses into strengths, she said, “I’ve got this slogan. It was on a reality show [Push Girls]. It was these girls in wheelchairs and the slogan was, ‘If you can’t stand up, stand out.’ And for me, I felt like that really, you know, this whole media career I have orchestrated from my bed. My career popped off in the press a couple years ago. I did it. While I can’t stand up, stand out… I lost my job and because of the Internet or whatever, I got the most attention so I was on disability getting contacted for, you know, by The New York Times Magazine. It was just crazy. So yeah. When you can’t stand up, stand out. Unique is always good.”
Marnell’s voice is original. She’s startlingly honest and writes things nobody should. Her career is based on a can-you-top-this approach, but as she describes horribly embarrassing details, she’s hilarious. She described the décor in one of her apartments as “midcentury meth lab.”
“It’s Like Cooking”
Her thoughts on how the book will be received were, “I’m not saying everyone gets it. I feel like with a book—I mean it’s like cooking. I don’t feel immodest saying it’s, I mean, if you taste food that you’ve cooked and you know it’s good then it’s good to you. It’s not like everyone’s taste, know what I mean? I feel like it’s good to me and I worked so hard on it.”
Selling film rights is already in the works. And you should check out the Marnell-inspired fictionalized character—fashion blogger Jade Winslow—on TV Land’s Sex and the City-ish series Younger.
How to Murder Your Life is what every addict memoir should be: adventure-packed, shocking, darkly humorous, and gut-wrenching—the only thing missing is sobriety. The book will be published January 31. You’re likely to read it in one fast sitting.