literary masochism: why you don’t buy things that went viral on Tumblr in 2011

I recall stumbling upon a photo of the opening page of Diary Of An Oxygen Thief on Tumblr or Facebook sometime during high school. I skimmed through hundreds of comments about the author’s confessional, sociopathic, self-aggrandizing rant describing how treating women like shit was his favorite hobby, all saying variations of: “Wow… This is terrifying to read… Horrible… Terrible… Is this a true story? Scary…” 

(I wish I had paid more attention at the time; after having suffered through reading it [twice], I think those may have been reviews of the book as a whole instead of reactions to the narrator boasting, “…I think I killed a few of them [girls]. Their souls, I mean. It was their souls I was after,” because it… sucked.) 

I spotted a copy at a used book-store last year, to which I thought, shit, let’s see what all the fuss was about… and proceeded to narrow my eyes when the bitch rang up as $7, but I was unemployed, so at least your tax money paid for this piece of crap. 

The author is listed as anonymous, which was the only wise decision made in the entire creation and publication process. There isn’t a single character in this book with a redeeming quality; the narrator is supposed to be a recovering alcoholic male in his mid 30s, and whether the situations documented in the book actually happened or were just a product of a warped imagination, they make themselves out to be INSUFFERABLE. I have to live with the aftermath of publishing a book about my own vagina under my real name, which has truly come to hinder me in the job and husband market (big surprise), but I would turn into Tom Hanks in Castaway in my own home until eventually dousing myself in a bottle of 151 and smoking the last, best cigarette of my life, had I written and attached my name to this. I think I would even lose my friends, and they’re notorious at humoring me when I should be put in time out (or rehab). 

While I have the displeasure of knowing (and dating) many men in their mid 30s who are completely oblivious to their petulance and severe need of professional mental help, DOAOT’s amateur unreliability of the narrator, pages upon pages of impertent scenes/stories/ramblings, and dialogue that is awkward enough to suggest the author has never actually engaged in an actual conversation — let alone a relationship or coitus — with the opposite sex, are all reminiscent of the “Most Read” section of fanfiction on Wattpad, and most of those are written by teenagers… Thus, the intentional ambiguity of the author does nothing to dismiss my speculation that this was actually written by an adolescent (of any gender) who unfortunately took a liking to Charles Bukowski and had recently seen (not read) American Psycho

The author’s refusal to use any punctuation besides a hard-stop period and pitiful renditions of Bukowski’s reveries of spending days at his favorite bars from open-to-close are dead giveaways of his influence; I have always been apologetic for my high opinion on Bukowski, but now, I am more sorry that he birthed writers like this… Try to remember whatever work of his that you read and were first appalled by, and then imagine it being unfathomably worse, in every way possible: that’s Diary Of An Oxygen Thief

The book is broken up into three chapters/parts. The first chronicles the author’s years of alcoholism and all the women he brags about sucking the soul out of by fucking once and not calling back later, with maybe a few insults thrown at them on his way out the door, all recounted with the insistence that these offenses were not just the average behavior of an emotionally unavailable, severe alcoholic, but elaborate, meticulously organized acts of douchebaggery performed by a wily, master “soul furnace.” (Yes, he called himself a “soul furnace,” which could easily be the name of some local dads’ buttrock cover band, whom you would probably garner far more pleasure out of seeing play in their garage than reading this book.) 

I am fairly certain that the author Googled “sociopathic behavior in relationships,” pilfered some stories from the comment section, tweaked them a bit, and slapped them in this. Here are a few of the worst sentences imaginable, written by someone doing well to make themselves out to be the worst person imaginable, from this chapter: 

“Somehow I was able to lure these creatures into my lair.” (Seriously: Would someone who has had actual sex before say this? Most of us have all been on the Internet for nearly two decades… Think about it… ) 

“…I miss hurting. I’m not cured of it, but I don’t set out to systematically dismantle like I used to.” (Me, just last night, with a heavy heart, paying full price for avocados at the self-checkout after almost getting caught by the attendant ringing up them, an eyebrow pencil, and a pack of ham as bananas, the cheapest produce…) 

“I did it to get even. Unkind to womankind. That was my mission. Around this time, I discovered the meaning of the word ‘misogynist.’ I remember thinking it hilarious that it had ‘Miss’ as a prefix.” (We are only at page 6 out of 151, friends… I accept tips for my heroic service via Venmo…) 

[after agreeing to walk a hookup’s child to school the next day] “…I got the feeling that mother and daughter made full use of the men that passed through their lives. Like the Native American and the Buffalo, The Eskimo and Seal, The Welfare Mother and Me.” (Page seven, now, and I will note that the capitalization errors were not made by me, and it doesn’t get better, either — only variations of worse.) 

Alas, we are introduced to Penelope, his girlfriend of four and a half years — “the one who started it all,” though the story of their breakup does little to adduce how Penelope turned him into a piece of shit. He wanted to dump her because she was apparently shitty in bed and getting in the way of his drinking… To be honest, I’ve been there, but there’s significantly less sinister or dramatic ways of extricating yourself from those kinds of relationships, and I wouldn’t be caught dead lying my ass off afterwards in some dramatic, poorly-punctuated side-note like this: “Pen, I’m so sorry. I needed to hurt you. I knew we were coming to an end. You tried to hide how you felt, but it ripped across your face. Disgust. I began to hate you for not having the courage to tell me what you really thought of me. So I had to make up your mind for you,ESPECIALLY about someone who was terrible in bed. This is one of many examples of the amateur unreliability of the narrator, and I don’t quite understand what the point was in sprinkling in brief moments of (alleged) “heartfelt honesty” into a memoir about how you are a piece of shit, a “soul furnace,” an “oxygen thief”; as the story progresses, this change of tone/intent often occurs multiple times in a single paragraph. 

He invites Penelope to a bar to execute his totally brilliant plan of “dismantling four years,” which consisted of him pelting her with petty insults that any 13-year-old boy would think were scathing and teeming with wit, such as that her vagina is “baggy and overused” and her “tits hang too low.” Penelope just kind of sat there, which he took as a sign that he was FUCKING ANNIHILATING HER… JUST SUCKING HER SOUL, MAN… SHE WAS SOBBING INSIDE… 

“She must have sensed mercy in the air. She sensed wrong.” Aside from that being really funny and a stupid thing to say, he pretty much tells her to go find someone else and to make sure she “takes revenge on him.” Penelope, a normal person in their mid 20s who has probably long had it with this moron using theatrics to cover up that he is actually just a fucking moron, goes and finds a man who doesn’t waste so much energy trying to mimic Patrick Bateman, and leaves him alone. Still, he insists on blaming her for when he was later hit by a car after leaving a bar: “I fantasized that she would turn up in a nurse’s uniform any second and administer a long, slow luxurious hand job… but only after she’d help me take a long, slow, luxurious piss.” More typos, while I am all the more certain that Penelope was probably sitting on her couch, catching up on Grey’s Anatomy, looking up kale recipes and like, truly, seriously, forreal, 100%, not giving a slightest goddamn fuck what that idiot was up to. 

With Penelope out of the way, the second chapter brings us to the height of his reign of terror (and I don’t mean in writing this book, because the height would mean that we are nearing the end and we sadly have almost 130 more pages of bullshit). He meets a virgin, whom — though I hate to say it — got exactly what she deserved for telling him that he had an “enviable command of the English language”; without a doubt, that flattering lie paid a part in encouraging him to write this… As women, we must collectively cease lying our ass off when we compliment men; that is quite possibly the only time they will actually listen to us and apply what we are saying to their life, and before you know it, they’ve created some embarrassing abomination and were rude enough to immortalize you in it as someone who grossed him out because you swallowed his nut (what man has ever said that?) but still ate you out for hours after (which we know did not happen; he ate you out for maybe ten minutes, max, but defending yourself by calling out this discrepancy would mean admitting that you ever associated with this fucking imbecile, so you lose automatically). 

In between stories of ghosting other women, the author arbitrarily sprinkles in stories of childhood abuse, only to say, “Maybe this stuff has links to other stuff that happened later. Maybe not,” which just SCREAMS fanfiction… [The totally dreamy vocalist of the local band just happens to stand by the narrator in the crowd and says something like “I like your shirt”; they engage in a lengthy, two-chapter-long conversation about their adoration for the headlining band, interrupted sometime in the middle by the Dreamboat Singer asking, “What is that scar on your arm from?”; the narrator lowers her eyes and looks around nervously before mumbling, “Oh, my mom branded me with a hot iron when I was 4-years-old because she told me I was a worthless cow;” Heartthrob Screamo/One Direction/Harry-Potter-character-turned-rockstar  Man nods and says something dramatically ominous but still vague enough to suggest that he, too, has trauma regarding farm animals; the conversation careens to their preferred sauces for chicken nuggets; by the time the headliner plays their encore, they are inseparable and in love for all of eternity.]

Anyway, our Oxygen Thief apparently invited all his scorned hoes to a roast of a whole pig or quinceanera or sex-toy party for widows or something with “the idea [was] to create a sort of lasagna of pain”. (Meanwhile, this and Lil Wayne’s iconic bar “real g’s move in silence like lasagna” probably reign supreme as the two worst cultural references to what is otherwise a delicious and filling icon of Italian foods.) His plan doesn’t work out; he’s too drunk; drunk enough to finally get sober, which brings us to the middle of the book: Minnesota. 

Because he is a total genius and alcohol only made him use his exuberant, unnatural high level of intelligence for inconveniencing women and abusing the Shift key for Inconsistent punctuation In his brilliantly Executed memoir, sobriety freed up enough of his time for him to land himself a $300k a year gig in the advertising field… NATURALLY. His firm moves him to Minnesota. Now, when you think of Minnesota, what is the first thing that pops into your head?

Cold: It’s goddamn cold. When reading something written about Minnesota, you assume they will not mention such a redundant fact and elaborate on… I don’t know… what else Minnesota has to offer besides frostbite. Alas, the following 30+ pages in Diary Of An Oxygen Thief are nothing but shinfo about how Minnesota is fucking freezing, he hates his extremely well-paying job, he can’t find anyone to buy his mansion so he can leave, and his various masturbation techniques now that he is sober and abstinent — in retirement from being a “soul furnace,” if you will. 

Much like with the strewn-in bits of him experiencing genuine emotions like a real person, I cannot decipher why this section was included instead of viciously X’d through by an editor in a red permanent marker (that bleeds) for any other reasons besides meeting a word-count/page quota. It is boring — it is terrible — I don’t think any reader gave much of a shit about anything else in this book, but I can assure you that they especially didn’t give a shit about this — and all he does is whine, whine, whine. In fact, this whole book is a mentally ill man whining…. I should consider lending it to one of the many I know and see if they can find any joy in it, because bitch, it was lost on me; I had a better time reading Sarah Palin’s diatribes about local Alaskan politics. 

The only segment of any pertinence is when the narrator attends an AA meeting and receives an ominous warning from a girl who he “thought was just a rich girl who had overdone the coke and was in AA to keep her rich husband happy” and that it was a “pity she’s so fucked up because she’s very tasty” about how a friend of hers — ironically from his same obscure hometown — was a vicious maneater and had her sights set on him. This girl is the whole point of this book; she was his Lolita, his “punishment,” his “karma,” but by the beginning of the third part, it is obvious that she is no more shitty than him: He simply met his match. 

Now, imagine a romantic rendezvous — or even a fucking casual conversation — between the worst two people you can think of, and we have the remaining 70 pages of this shithole: You can continue reading, or you can click “play” on the episode of the Joe Rogan Experience where Elon Musk was a guest instead and get the same headache. Sadly, I continued on, though there is no revelation, no retribution, no breakthrough; this book — which really sucks — continues to suck. 

He, of course, meets the girl he was warned about. She is an artiste, a photographer from an extremely wealthy family, which is the exact type of person the narrator is enough of a fucking stupid narcisstic idiot to “fall for,” so he claims, though the previous ~100+ pages clearly reveal that he is devoid of feeling any palpable emotion and entirely incapable of experiencing any resemblance of “love.” He even claimed — after going on only one real “date” with her, hours of which were spent with his face buried in her pussy (excuse me: he called it her “womanhood,” as any fanfiction virtuoso would), and “no more than four phone calls” — that he was so in love and being so toyed with by her that he wished he could “torture and kill her without going to prison.” 

Yes: That’s genuine, healthy love, developed over a week of spotty interactions. Every compliment he pays to her throughout the book is a mere compliment to his past self: his “soul furnace” days, reincarnated and lurking in the present as this asshole girl. 

I cannot dismiss that the only reason why he is so enamored with her is because she — as he repeats constantly — looks like a teenage girl, and I am long past the point where any further detail to confirm that this man deserves to be castrated surprises me: “Suddenly, I was looking at this sweet teenage innocent like she was a cum-soaked whore. And I liked it.” As someone who tends to fall into hopeless love simply to prolong my own unnecessary suffering, I can tell you that not a single one of their interactions should have prompted this infatuation (again, imagine the two worst people you know hanging out), and random comments are added through this reflection to make you hate him more, such as: a fear of catching AIDS from a toilet seat, a shitty dismissal of restaurant hostesses, a rant about how women love nothing but money, his disgust at her actually possessing talent as a photographer, more countless notes on how young she looked even though we do eventually get a confirmation that she was 27, not 16, as he had probably hoped, all the while she simply treats him the same way he treated other women. It is as if she also Googled “sociopathic behavior in relationships” and said, “Cool. That sounds good. I’ll act like that.” He defended his own past behavior by saying it was “no more than spiritual vandalism. This is professional,” because using a photo of him, taken seconds after she rejected him, in her art exhibit is just… hellacious…. unbearable… and yet, that is his karma? That is her revenge? He met a girl who didn’t like him back, though whether he ever even “liked” or “loved” her at all is aleatory… In fact, on page 121, he finally summarizes the plot of the final half objectively: “Guy turns up in New York, expecting her to drop everything for him just because it suited him to leave Saint Lacroix [Minnesota]. A guy she was only lukewarm about to begin with. Now he was acting all hurt because he didn’t want to have sex with him. I could see that.” 

But he only sees it for that one paragraph. He witnessed a mirror of himself and learned nothing; there is no justification in this story; no character is ever redeemed. As a reader, it wasn’t gratifying to see her treat him as he had treated countless women: No change in his character came from it, and it upset him enough to write this shitty fucking awful book:“I think you can agree our antics were worth recording” page 111 reads, but no one agrees. 

Forty more goddamn nauseating pages later, and this seemingly neverending fanfiction is finally concluded with a smug paragraph about how he is already working on his next book and the screenplay for this one because people care, so fucking much… “Congratulate me,” the last line says.

Congratulate me, fucker: I read this horseshit TWICE

FINAL LITERARY MASOCHISM RATING: I genuinely found True Allegiance by Ben Shapiro to be less infuriating of a read than this. This sucked. 

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