Self-described “menmoir” examines parallels between the author’s romantic failures and her decades-long struggles with alcoholism, bulimia and depression.
Armed with a dating record that her friend refers to as “Wendy’s catch-and-release program,” Merrill tracks the trajectory of her life in an attempt to make peace with her destructive impulses. She used drugs and alcohol to filter reality, she now realizes; in personal relationships, being wasted dulled any potential hurt and precluded any real intimacy. During her five-year marriage, she was closer to her cat than to her husband. Subconsciously staging guerrilla warfare on her chances of happiness, she piled up one mistake after another. Alcohol wiped out Merrill’s memory of entire portions of life. Her honesty, combined with dashes of humor, renders her chronicles authentic, but other contemporary memoirists have examined their lives with greater purpose and higher literary aspirations. Merrill’s work, though it invites compassion, lacks the skill and technique that elevate confession to art. She wields her honesty like an eraser, as if coming clean about her past will win her the freedom to create whatever new life she chooses. However, her vague ideas about the future go no deeper than contemplative musings on plastic surgery.
Extremely personal but oddly prosaic: She may have written this with a clear head, but the evidence here suggests that Merrill’s insights into her life remain blurry.