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A Memoir

by Cat Marnell

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4767-5227-3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A memoir of addiction and the millennial high life.

The short answer to the instruction implied in the title is this: do a lot of drugs, drink to excess, be flaky and unreliable on the job, and take stupid risks. A one-time junior fashionista—“I always wanted to be a beauty editor. To me, being a beauty editor was better than being president of the United States!”—Marnell checks off these obligations dutifully, having been trained by a childhood of privilege and bewildered, clueless parents (“My mom was in there—snooping!”). From the manicured suburbs to trendiest Manhattan is but a short step, with an infinitely more interesting medicine cabinet than the usual Ritalin regime. Landing a gig at, yes, a fashion magazine, Marnell soon developed an “amphetamine work ethic” and learned the ropes of the trade, including how to land Vicodin and Percocet and hide her habit effectively—at least at work (“I kept the orange bottles in the zipper pocket of my mom’s Chloé Silverado bag—hidden away”). Naturally, the author also learned that the people who surrounded her chemical life were not the most dependable or nicest, four to a couch and doped to the gills (“ZZZZZZZ, one of the dudes snored. At least that meant he was alive”). Writing in her early 30s on the other side of it all, Marnell ends her account with the expected truisms (“Strong, healthy people just don’t interest the sickos of the world as much”) and Scarlett O’Hara–isms (“Someday I’ll find a man who treats me right”). It’s all delivered with studied earnestness and an eye to shock value, though there’s not much left that can shock us in this sad world: not Japanese pornography and not the louche vision of addicts with Jean Paul Gaultier gym bags.

What’s missing is humor. Every generation needs its Carrie Fisher, perhaps even its Hunter S. Thompson, but this isn’t it.