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A Roller Coaster Ride with Cat Marnell

While looking for books to read on Goodreads, I saw the cover for Cat Marnell’s memoir, How To Murder Your Life. I had never heard of Marnell before reading her book. This is hands down one of the craziest yet interesting books that I’ve ever read. Half of the time that I was reading this I had to keep reminding myself that this is non-fiction because it reads like fiction.

The memoir starts out with Marnell at an event while she was a beauty editor at Lucky magazine. Long story short, it was bad. Marnell was a hot mess. The main reason she was in such bad shape was because she was drunk and high at the same time. This was not a random occurrence either. Marnell was always high, which she goes into significant detail about throughout the memoir.

The memoir then goes back into time to her childhood. Her parents were very strict and Marnell had issues in school with keeping her grades up. It got so bad that both parties agreed to send her off to a boarding school in Massachusetts. The bad grade troubles continued until Marnell’s father, who is a psychiatrist, prescribed Ritalin for her ADHD. For a time, Marnell’s grades improved and she was doing well in school.

Over the years of writing the book, I couldn’t be high every day. I couldn’t be high. I had to take my drugs as prescribed. People still come around wanting to smoke PCP. People don’t want you to change. But I would never go back. —Cat Marnell in an interview for The New York Times

Eventually though, things spiraled out of control once Marnell started using drugs. She used other ADHD drugs, including her favorite, Adderall. Things got so bad that she got kicked out of boarding school. She was also pregnant at the time. Marnell ended up having an abortion and eventually getting her diploma.

After high school, Marnell went to college in New York, and that’s when her magazine career began. She interned for Nylon, Vanity Fair, Glamour and more. She really loved the work that she did and was very passionate about it. When Marnell wasn’t at her internships, she was partying it up on the New York City club scene. With partying came drugs, which Marnell partook in A LOT. She pretty much did every hard drug that you can think of.

Even though Marnell was doing all of these drugs, she was moving up in the magazine world. She ended up getting a job at Lucky magazine as an assistant beauty editor. She spent a lot of years there and was given a lot of chances after her personal life started to have an effect on her work life. I commend her for admitting that her privilege allowed her to have so many chances. During her time at Lucky, Marnell suffered personal setbacks including a stint in rehab and spending time in a psychiatric ward. Marnell says that she owed all of those chances to her boss at the time, Jean Godfrey June, who she adored. After one of Cat’s transgressions, she decided that she didn’t want to work at Lucky anymore and she quit her job.

Cat then ended up working for xoJane as a beauty editor and also ended up writing about one of her favorite pastimes: drugs! Marnell wrote about her drug adventures and it gained a lot of traffic on the site and a lot of popularity for Marnell herself. Her time eventually ended at xoJane too. Her next writing venture was at Vice, where once again she was writing about her favorite vice, drugs.

Cat Marnell at a panel in 2012. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.
Cat Marnell at a panel in 2012. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.

Marnell did a lot of writing and a lot of drugs throughout this memoir. She has a lot of issues with her family and the few friends that she had. One friend in particular named Marco was bad news. He was a horrible person. He would come into her apartment at all times of the night and then eventually started stealing from her. It was definitely a toxic relationship. She dealt with a lot of bad people, but she has learned from her mistakes.

At the end of the memoir, Marnell tells the reader that she has stopped taking drugs, drinking, partying and even smoking cigarettes. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised at this development. It’s sad to say this, but I didn’t think that Marnell would ever get herself together. She has also repaired her relationship with her family, which was another nice surprise.

It was amazing to read Marnell’s story and to see how far she has come. Throughout the book I kept asking the question, “How is she still alive?” because she went through a lot. It’s good to see the progress that she’s made. Marnell is not perfect, though, because she admits that she still uses Adderall. I hope that eventually she gets back into writing again because she’s a good writer. I really enjoyed this memoir.

Have you read Cat Marnell’s previous stuff? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below!


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Kayla works at Squirrel Hill as a Clerk, so when you come up to the customer services desk you might see her face! When she’s not at the library she enjoys reading, watching TV & listening to music. You might also find her at your local Starbucks, because she loves her Frappuccinos.

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