Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked Hardcover – Feb 12 2013
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"What is...most riveting about this strange and unsettling book is not the grim fascination of Lasdun's situation; it's the moral intelligence and intensity with which he examines it." -- Mark O'Connell Observer "Give Me Everything You Have is a reminder, as if any were needed, of how easily, since the arrival of the Internet, our peace can be troubled and our good name besmirched." -- J. M. Coetzee "James Lasdun's extraordinary tale of erotic obsession is so gripping...there is no greater narcotic than insanity combined with lust" -- Camilla Long Sunday Times "A riveting memoir... This must be the most informative, the most insightful, and the most beautifully written of any account from the victim's perspective of what has come to be called "cyberbullying"." -- Joyce Carol Oates "An extraordinarily odd and disturbing story... The poet in him is skilled at following tiny snags of thought into marvellous, rich mini-essays." -- Jenny Turner Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
About the Author
James Lasdun was born in London and now lives in upstate New York. He has published two novels, as well as several collections of short stories and poetry. He has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times, T. S. Eliot, and Forward prizes in poetry, and he was the winner of the inaugural BBC National Short Story Award. His nonfiction has been published in Harper's Magazine, Granta, and the London Reviewof Books.
Top Customer Reviews
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It would be so easy for Mr. Lasdun to simply be angry. He did nothing to provoke this aggravatingly personal assault. He was kind to this pathetic woman, even after she became a monumental pain in the ass. He related to the part of he that was a writer and when presented with her work, provided insightful, helpful commentary.
It's profoundly satisfying to see a "victim" (in the law enforcement context) face their accuser, defend themselves, and transform the experience into something progressive and illuminating. The publication of this book is the author's day in court, probably the only one he will ever have. Mr. Lasdun learns about himself in this ordeal - how much he loves his wife and kids, how grateful he is for his trusted colleagues and peers. One can't help put ponder the arbitrariness of the whole thing...how vulnerable all of us are to random attack in a world where internet-facilitated identity fraud is so common. There are anti-stalking laws on the books in a majority of jurisdictions now - hopefully this fact will give the reader, and Mr. Lasdun, a measure of solace. In any case, do not miss this book.
At the outset, one expects the stalker to be profoundly disturbed. She is. By mid-book, however, one realizes that the author himself might well benefit from some therapy. The agonizing and obsessing brought on by the harassment seems to push Lasdun into a tangle of over-analysis. There is indeed a cautionary tale in here about lingering in friendships with flirtatious and possibly unstable others. Many readers will themselves recall unwise decisions of their own, or relationships that ended badly. Few, however, will have the story Lasdun has to tell. The abuse is constant and raw, truly nightmarish in its tone and intensity.
The book explores the idea of boundaries between people, boundaries of emotion, thought, and identity. The text itself has a wandering way, its own disregard for boundaries. The story is told once, then revisited, and then told with allegory. It is the perception of the persecuted, the one straining to understand the onslaught of abuse directed at him from seemingly demonic forces.
This is not a linear story told dispassionately. If you are looking for a clinical account of stalking, with tips and warning signs, keep looking. If you are willing to befriend Lasdun yourself and walk with him through this experience, then it is a compelling read.
At the beginning of the book, it is clear that Lasdun mowed down some warning signs from Nasreen as if piloting an Abrams tank, but then again, it is easy to say this with the benefit of hindsight. It would be simple to say that he opened the windows of his fortress to allow access to the toxic cloud. But this is to misunderstand the insidious nature of the stalker. The ease with which Nasreen first portrayed herself as "friend" by morphing into exactly that which Lasdun wanted to see is merely the commencement of her shapeshifting manipulation. What happens from there on out is nothing short of chilling. Lasdun's comparison of Nasreen's effect on him to voodoo or a curse was, to me, brilliant. The horrifying alteration of his life can be felt with every word; the helplessness and frustration are manifest. Having been the subject of an internet stalker myself, I can understand his fear and second-guessing to at least a small degree. Hence, I can also understand the desire to fling this story out in the most public way in order to take back ownership of his life, particularly after he receives little or no help from law enforcement.
But this is where I arrive at the question of whether this book is ill-advised (some may consider the paragraph below to contain spoilers, so please read with caution). First, there is the quite obvious issue that Nasreen accuses him of using her emails to produce a literary work, and that has actually come to fruition in this book, although most certainly not in the sense of "stealing" ideas. Next, there is the more prosaic issue: is it wise, or even ethical, to write a book about a stalker when that stalker is still quite actively pursuing the target? Lasdun discusses this possibility in the text, but dismisses it rather quickly, in contrast to the very detailed, intelligent probe of other aspects of this debacle. From this book, Lasdun appears to be unaware of the scientific literature on mental illness in general and the burgeoning research regarding the psychological phenomenon of internet stalking in particular. But perhaps he is not; perhaps that is not the point of this book at all. It does concern me that Nasreen has shown no sign of slowing down and that she is now targeting one of his children. As Lasdun argues, though it may indeed be an oversimplification to say that Nasreen is "just" mentally ill, it seems to me, at least, that she is. Whether Lasdun intended this book as a provocation or not, it appears that it may be taken that way by Nasreen; in turn, this book may contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy of never-ending torture by a stalker.
To sum up, this is the most controversial and thought-provoking book I have read in years. I already know that it is going to reside in my thoughts, close to the surface, for a long time. While I reiterate that if you are looking for a paperback novel of suspense, this book will probably not meet your expectations, I also strongly recommend this book for its fascinating analysis of the anguish caused by the modern-day stalker.
This book is the best example I have ever seen of why writing instructors insist that you delete things not relevant to the story you are telling.
The book is an amazing example of an author who has decided not only to tell the story at hand, but also to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. On page 165 he tells about his decision to write this book: "There would be the armature of the case itself, but beyond it ... I saw a place in it for my family, my father, our Provence trip, my train ride across the country, my interest in questions of moral culpability, honor and reputation, desire and repression; for various figures out of history, legend, and fiction, for an analysis of what it feels like to be a middle-aged white male writer of impeccable (by his own reckoning) liberal convictions, publicly accused of the tawdriest kinds of misconduct, and for an account of what happens when an unbelieving, not even entirely kosher Jew finds himself subjected to a firestorm of unrelenting anti-Semitism." He forgot to mention long diversions into various aspects of architecture, art, Israeli history, a trip to Israel, an analysis of the story of Sir Gawain, and many other extraneous issues.
By the time I had plowed through the book to reach this statement on page 165, I was happy to finally understand how this book had gone so far afield of the story the author had started out telling. Slogging through the 37-page train ride in Part 2, I almost gave up reading the book. Mercifully, just as I was about to cry uncle, Part 3 returned to the story of the stalker. But then the final Part 4 took off to Israel, where we spent the next 55 pages on a different story altogether. Personally I enjoyed the sojourn in Israel because I used to live there. But it didn't have anything to do with the story of the email stalker.
If you just want to read the stalking story, get the book out from the library and read Parts 1 and 3, and you'll have it.
Lasdun writes well and he is smart and articulate, and I will perhaps try another of his books, but I'm not encouraged by this first experience!