How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

The Blurb On The Back:

”I was twenty-six years old and an associate beauty editor at Lucky, one of the top fashion magazines in America.  That’s all that most people knew about me.  But beneath the surface, I was full of secrets: I was a drug addict, for one.  A pillhead.  I was also an alcoholic-in-training who guzzled warm Veuve Clicquot after work alone in my boss’s office with the door closed; a conniving and manipulative uptown doctor-shopper; a salami-and-provolone-puking bulimic who spent a hundred dollars a day on binge foods when things got bad (and they got bad often); a weepy, wobbly, wildly hallucination-prone insomniac; a tweaky self-mutilator; a slutty and self-loathing downtown party girl; and – perhaps most of all – a lonely weirdo.  But, you know, I had access to some really fantastic self-tanner.” 

You can order HOW TO MURDER YOUR LIFE by Cat Marnell from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Cat Marnell was the former Beauty Editor for Lucky magazine and xojane who gained a viral following for writing confessional pieces based on her life as a drug addict and her place in New York’s beauty elite.  In this repetitive, glib, self-absorbed memoir that lacks any nuance or depth, Marnell sets out a broad account of the chemical highs and emotional and physical lows of her life to date that demonstrates only that a white girl born into a well-to-do family will be forgiven the most emotionally abusive behaviour provided she can string a sentence together.

I picked this up after reading an interview with Marnell in a Sunday supplement and having been impressed with her honesty and insight into her various addictions and the effect that her place in the media world had upon her.  Unfortunately while you can’t fault Marnell’s honesty (she shares some truly degrading experiences including a teen pregnancy that was aborted at 5 months) she offers no insight into the reasons for her behaviour or her addiction and after a while the different story variations on how she got high, binged and purged until she emotionally fell apart and got sent for half-hearted stints in rehab became too repetitive to hold my interest.

She seems to imply that her parents are partly to blame for her issues – certainly her father sounds appalling (especially the revelation that he essentially institutionalised Marnell’s elder sister for a while as a teenager for acting out) while her emotionally manipulative mother (who, it’s revealed in a casual aside, also suffered from bulimia) appears impossible of offering either comfort or guidance and Marnell certainly seems to view them as a cash cow there to support her lifestyle and give her pills on demand.  Yet in the Afterword, Marnell says that everything’s now fine between her and her family and her father had no inkling of how he’d contributed to her addiction, which I found difficult to believe given earlier revelations.

Also unclear is why the beauty magazines who employed her forgave her behaviour for so long.  Given her confessions of being stoned and drunk during key events and annoying marketing honchos at key clients, I didn’t get how she got a pass for that – especially when she also admits that being strung out meant she was incapable of meeting deadlines or managing her own division.

Marnell can put a sentence together and, as I said, her honesty is to be admired, but I didn’t find anything interesting in her revelations and her lack of any desire to analyse her behaviour (apart from in that Afterword, which reads like a hasty postscript that lacks insight or self-awareness) made this a dull read.  If you’re into beauty or minor New York celebrities from the 90s and earlier 00s, this may be for you but otherwise I can’t really recommend it.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

2 thoughts on “How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

  1. I wondered about this one but was afraid it would be more self-indulgent without having greater redemptive qualities, which it sounds like from your review. What a missed opportunity to write something meaningful and possibly helpful for others. Great review though!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks! It’s a real shame because the interview she gave to The Times was great – reflective and honest. I don’t need to read a memoir where the author crucifies themselves over their drug addiction, but I’d have liked some awareness of the impact her behaviour had on others.


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