Memoir Tricks and Wardrobe Treats


I just slammed my way through Cat  Marnell’s memoir, How to Murder Your Life. It’s written in a party girl patois that I think is cracklingly well done. The book is probably getting an enormous amount of  hate from MFA debt riddled cat lady bloggers because it’s too much fun.

Her voice is a bunny rabbit Hunter S. Thompson possessed by the spirit of Clueless’s Cher Horowitz. If someone wrote this as fiction, people would study it for it’s post*media/post*punk feel and use dreary special character enhanced neologisms like the one I just cynically deployed to describe it. It would be rendered no fun. Fortunately this is a pop-bio of a highly visible social artist with little concern for academic finger wagging.

Marnell is real and by all accounts as manic as she make herself out to be. Her obsessive outfit and beauty product descriptions are beauty mag writing perfection, but there are veins of Bret Easton Ellis running through it, letting you know it’s going to all come down.

She makes repeated statements about how alone she feels, how isolated she became, and she has the hoarding tendencies of a loner, which is a thing. I learned about it recently in Olivia Lang’s book The Lonely City. While reading this latter book I realized I hadn’t connected with the writer nearly as quickly as I did reading How to Murder Your Life. Now, obviously I have a thing for beautiful wild girls who stay up till dawn (how do you think I met Mrs. Lott?), but there was something in the writing that compelled me.

I realized Marnell’s constant description of every detail of her body, her smells, her clothes, everything, makes her character come alive in the book. This seems like a clever and useful trick to get a reader to absorb you. You risk putting the reader off with your narcissism, but what Marnell does to overcome that is lay it all out immediately. From the earliest chapters you know she is selfish and self centered. She spends a day looking at herself in a mirror on her desk. She warns that her boarding school story is privileged in all the ways Gawker hates.

The reader knows what they’re getting into. You’re charmed by her easy, unexpected optimism. No matter how mistreated she is or no matter how she might’ve opened herself up to that mistreatment, she does not complain. She does not blame. She marches into it with her heels on.

Blogging at its best is essentially amateur memoir and I wonder how much self description could enhance reader connection to an unknown writer. If I told you I was wearing bald eagle Vans slip-ons, paint splattered no-name camo sweatpants, and a mistreated $200 wool hoodie from a boutique tactical mountain warfare company, would it matter?

How about  if I described my hair as having been last cut by a very expensive stylist two years ago, and it was long then? I can’t remember if I own a razor. My face is becoming wizardly thanks to a grey streaked beard and laugh lines around my eyes. I don’t wear deodorant, but have a mostly plant-oriented diet, so I don’t have much of a smell. I get a little sweaty riding my bike to work and that mixes in with a sandalwood oil I sometimes put in my hair. My teeth, however, are very well kept. I floss everyday and had braces.

The last time I bought any clothes was over a year ago when I needed dark jeans and a button down shirt for a wedding (which I wore my eagle Vans to). I don’t know where the shirt is and I left the jeans somewhere. I have a uniform: black American Apparel t-shirts Levi’s 511s, and converse/Vans. I’ve worn this same outfit since I was a teenager. Everything I have is worn out, except my books, which I’m careful with, though not careful enough to keep them collectible.

There was a time around when I met my wife I actually looked cool. I had a shaggy Beck haircut and some nice vintage suits and a lot of Fred Perry gear. I blasted around San Francisco on a beat up 1970s vespa. The bar I worked at had an Indie/Britpop night and that look put a lot of ladies in my bed.

A few years ago I began completely disintegrating sartorially. In my mind I was going to end up looking like a hot and muscly Southern version of Alan Moore. Now I look borderline homeless. This is something I think needs to change. A new look would probably be a solid investment right now. A costume change can be a magickal act.

Something else Marnell does effectively is write a love letter to the pre-social media, ubiquitous Blackeberry era,  New York. It’s a good thing for a writer to love a city. Even if it doesn’t love them back. I always felt like San Francisco hated me and wanted me to leave, so I did. My heart will always belong to the proximate cities Metairie and New Orleans, but I’ve got a thing going with a few blocks of Oakland and I should probably work more on that relationship.

So. Memoir reading. Solipsistic writing. Clothes shopping. City exploring. That’s all fertile material for some Artist’s Way Artist’s Dates.


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