“DIARY OF AN OXYGEN THIEF” by Anonymous (no, not the activists)

in Book reviews by

oxygen thief The book belongs first to the eyes (I stole this quote from a book about the Brooklyn Bridge, I feel it’s aesthetically justified). The cover is adorned by a snowman that connotes Jabba the Hutt, if Jabba had red druggy circular eyes, looked a bit like a half-baked porcupine, and had been equipped with a carrot to determine its gender. The title makes me happy, especially because the narrator is paid a shitload of money and works in advertising, which he claims to be good at, and after having read the story of how the novel came about – I believe him.

The narrative is told retrospectively by the narrator who looks back 10 years into the past to tell the story chronologically and eventually arriving in the present tense. He starts out Irish, drunk, mean, paranoid and ends up Irish, sober, relationshipped, redeemed. Sigh. Classic. The entire book is written in order for the narrator to avoid losing face, although, what it actually does is slowly peel off his cheeks and forehead with a potato peeler. But on his own terms.

The book is set in London – Minnesota – New York City, and I went from !!!-lol-zzz.

In the first part he is cruising around breaking hearts, starting with his long-term girlfriend, Penelope, and it felt a little brutal. Meanwhile he absorbs alcohol like a PVA sponge. In the second part he gets sober and ends up in Minnesota after being headhunted by an ad-agency, where he works hard, attends his AA-meetings like a good alcoholic, and never touches a woman out of fear of suddenly finding himself tied down to a “clean gened” scandi-descended Zolofted woman with two kids and a dog. The descriptions of life in Minnesota and the despair over said life in Minnesota had me lolling for a while, but when he moves to New York it becomes boring. His previously interesting loneliness gets reduced to a catalyst for movement and change.

Despite trying to build up suspense and wanting the reader to wait for the big finale, which will tell us why he has been cosmically forgiven from all his earlier breaking of hearts, the mechanics of the plot are not what made me read this book. They were really dull. I never thought “oh, I wonder what happens next’’. What made me read it through was how much I liked the fact that the narrator had zero redeeming qualities. Never ever is he in any way “likable” or even remotely sympathetic, except in his paranoid thoughts, which I found to be endearing (they served as a light in the dark, though nothing about this boring book can be forgiven). Even when he opts for some sympathy from the reader he is pretty clear about how everything he does, he does to get laid (if it wasn’t for his paranoia, none of the women would have had thoughts, they would just be tits and asses. Sometimes also long wavy hair). Think a young Michel Houellebecq-character, but with a will to live and a more sparkling sex-drive. But even his misogynic perspectives are old, boring and beaten-to-death: Only sluts swallow and all that women want is to tie down a man via marriage. I found nothing new here in the world of vagina envy.

An editor might have helped this book—a lot, but since it’s self-published (cf. the link above) no such repairs have been made. He is not a bad writer per se, but a better story would have been.. a better story.

Why you should read it: The cover is nice, but if you don’t read for masochism, you don’t need to read this book. The only thing that would make me reread it was if i found myself alive and alone after a nuclear disaster with only this book, and the cockroaches had collectively excommunicated me.

Giovanna, wildly gifted pedestrian, yet is able to remain humble. Would love to engineer a lovechild/super-breed author between Ben Lerner and Chris Kraus, but will also settle for a coffee table book with pictures of them and/or a documentary where they walk the Camino together.

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