A Diary of an Oxygen Thief: A whack to the guts?

I like hurting girls” who would think a 147 page book that opens with such a line could possibly go from an underground novel to a bestseller? A Diary of an Oxygen Thief is a self-published book that details the travails of a broken-hearted, alcoholic, and bitter misogynist who meets women to eventually proudly abuse them.

Photo/Pinterest

Called a « surprise dark-horse Williamsburg best seller » by New York Magazine, the dutch novel was published by an anonymous writer in 2006 to crack the top 20 on both Amazon and iTunes in 2016. Known in his growing fan base as “Anonymous”, the author delivers an unusual fictionalised (maybe not) memoir, or autobiographical novel. Whether you view the writer as a sociopath who enjoys hurting women or a relatable recovering alcoholic Irish guy depends on how much the book has impacted you to care.

What was this? Rejection? Was it really this tangible? All I could think about was that if I could be hurt like this then surely I could also cause it in others. This consoled me.

― Anonymous, Diary of an Oxygen Thief

The predominant factor of the novel’s success is due to the author’s own relentless marketing efforts. He began selling copies from his own stand in New York while inciting people to take a picture of the book even if they didn’t buy a copy. Eventually, they started sharing the book’s cover (which features a picture of a snowoman whose carrot nose has been repositioned to look like a penis) on social media which unsurprisingly paid off after a short period of time as the book had gone viral. To draw the readers in another way, the author also went out and put up posters in the streets of New York which featured profane statements and the book’s title mimicking ads promoting bands and albums. 

Posters promoting « Diary of an Oxygen Thief » wheat-pasted on scaffolding in New York. Photo/ Publishweekly

Once you dive into the first pages, you immediately feel a kind of loop which makes the reader feel that the narrator is trapped inside his own mind. Suffering throughout his alcohol addiction, the narrator decides to turn his life upside down to reach sobriety. During his journey, he emotionally manipulates and hurts women he dates until his world comes undone when karma hits as he falls head over heels in love with a woman but she ends up just screwing him over tremendously in the end.

Hurt people hurt people more skillfully. An expert heartbreaker knows the effect of each incision. The blade slips in barely noticed, the pain and the apology delivered at the same time.

― Anonymous, Diary of an Oxygen Thief

The book might seem difficult to stomach but some people can definitely find it compelling. who wouldn’t be interested in exploring the darker side of human nature? Who wouldn’t want to know the manipulation games people play with us? There are certainly parts that are valuable, darkly comic and bittersweet which make the readers enjoy and relate to. The author surely doesn’t hold back  while writing this book which makes it so profoundly incredible. The language is also casual and straightforward, evoking a refreshing sentiment though sometimes unapologetically appealing. The book’s vulgarities and the unlikable character of the narrator can also get people turned off and yet, it is still passable to a lot of people because in the end there is an art in being casual. 

Undoubtedly, the novel exudes raw honesty about human relationships and abuse in its purest form with a mix of disgust and neglect. so the story sadly is a bit too close to the truth. While it is a sort of a rollercoaster of emotions: the book makes you angry and want to just burn it to the ground, it however raises many serious questions about today’s societal issues. It brings up addiction, mental health, emotional abuse, toxic relationships and even sheds light on corporate culture.

A poster of A Diary of an Oxygen Thief. Photo/Pinterest

WHITE SPACE: Author’s puzzle

The novel’s vivid description of pain, of how emotions can become a heavy burden in our lives effectively captivates the readers to keep them continuously wanting to make it to the next page. the author basically dares you to make it to the end.  Often, novels use “white space” which refers to the puzzle or thrilling effect that a book’s story has on a reader. But for An Oxygen Thief, the white space becomes a matter of the book’s own author. An author who wants to remain in the shadows but for their voice to be heard certainly has their own reasons behind, leaving the text without a real face, instead letting the text be its own face. This leaves the readers wondering about the author’s own mind and goal behind this particular choice of raw novel. We can always speculate that the book is a confession of its own author even though there is a blurry line. Certainly, it is a great way to really get the reader involved and confused about the book’s nature.

Whether it is a diary or a therapy session for the author, An Oxygen Thief is a mature, realistic and honest book that either you love or hate. There is no in-between.

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