on May 1, 2013
At first, it is fascinating to follow how the author gets entwined with his stalker and the first third of the book, slightly condensed, would make up an interesting magazine article. But the author is so decent and politically correct, finding excuse after excuse for this woman who's destroying his life, that after a while I lost interest. The last third of the book, mostly on Provence and Jerusalem and being a Jew, if tightened up, might again be mildly interesting as a magazine piece but it bears hardly any relationship to the previous chapters.
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!
on July 9, 2013
There is something disconcerting about this memoir - well, many things... clearly, this "Nasreen" has mental issues, so I am unclear as to why Lasdun has even published this book in the first place. It's almost as though he enjoys this drama on some level (Margaret Atwood has a brilliant short story about a girl who is stalked only to find that her stalker has stalked a number of people and she isn't that special after all). It's almost as though her illness has attached itself to his neurosis and they are locked in this sick and twisted story. The author's digressions are exhausting and hard to follow. There is something about Lasdun's voice that keeps this from being a gripping read - a reticence of emotion, a constant questioning about what he did wrong. The New Yorker has a great review of this book and I agree with many of the points.
on April 5, 2013
I pre-ordered this for my Kindle based upon the excerpt published on the Chronicle of Higher Education website. The narrative presented in that excerpt was far more cohesive and compelling than the book.
I don't mean to be unkind; the subject matter is something that many professors/educators have to be aware of when dealing with emotionally unbalanced students, and I truly feel bad for the author and what he went through.
Nevertheless, it isn't something I would read again or recommend to a friend.
on August 28, 2013
IMHO, the biggest "informer" to this book (keep wanting to call it a novel) is Patricia Highsmith, and not only "Strangers on a Train", which Lasdun refers to in his book, but also the Ripley novels, which are full of seemingly benign relationships full of chance encounters that then move in an ominous direction, ultimately spiraling out of control. I also felt like Nasreen is effectively and due to her crazy stalking placed in the "Fatal Attraction" category, although there was never a sexual relationship between her and Lasdun. This is a "wandering motif", the woman who is scorned, and then fixates on the one who spurned her. Lasdun puts Nasdeen's emails out there verbatim, but not his own (at first he enjoyed their email exchanges and engaged in them with pleasure). This, to me, was telling.
Finally, now that Nasdeen has been "outed" (it's easy to find out who she is via the Internet) it's intriguing that Lasdun has succeeded in turning the tables on her. I suspect that, in the end, this was the real objective of the book--to take back his life, and to purge the wench, Nasdeen, and her wicked actions against him by bringing them out into the light. Who can blame him? Not I.
on October 25, 2013
How does someone make sense of and cope with the life-altering experience of being stalked? The author was (indeed still is) stalked for five years by an adult female (former) student who took a class/workshop from him and repaid his kindnesses with vindictive, vicious, and potentially dangerous cyber-stalking.
I liked the author and I liked his writing. However, as other reviewers have commented, the major thesis of this book was compromised, indeed weakened, by digressions which might have been - and sometimes were - in themselves interesting but were simply digressions, adding nothing to an understanding of the author's experience of being stalked. The author appears to be a person of generous good-will, forthright, decent and thoughtful. He responded to a talented student's writings by encouraging her aspirations and affirming her talent. Would that we all had teachers like that!
What I found maddening was how the author, erudite and insightful as he appears to be, was not particularly astute at identifying inappropriate emails from the student, always giving her the proverbial benefit of the doubt. Then, suddenly, it was too late. This story by itself, well-edited, would have been a riveting read. I have known people who were stalked; we all have. What sets this stalker apart is the tenacious ferocity of her delusional, narcissistic rage, her declaration of "I will ruin you", her attempts to do just that, financially and otherwise. The authors own attempt to deflect this rage appear sadly inadequate. He was blameless of everything except naivete, yet he wondered what part he played in unleashing such unmitigated hatred, hatred that encompassed his (perceived)religious and ethnic identity. Yet he wondered ad nauseum - how could he could have averted this debacle?
The stalker made the author doubt himself - the tools of a manipulative, sociopathic personality are always to make the victim doubt him/herself. I wanted the author to fight back and yet, (somewhat understandably), he floundered.
I wish the author had used his story as a segue into the phenomena of cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying, of legal and other remedies that can be used to stop the stalker, of the psycho-dynamics of the stalker. Of the psycho-dynamics of the victim. That would have been a legacy.
on April 5, 2013
Part psychological thriller, part literary critique, part historical study. "Give Me Everything You Have" would have been better served with a little more focus on the former two subjects and a little less on the latter. That said, it was well-paced, introspective and honest. Mr. Lasdun shines a much needed light on a bitter truth far too prevalent in our current culture: the ease in which one's reputation and, by extension, life can be destroyed.
on September 18, 2013
I bought this books based solely off a good review I read in a magazine and my own personal interest in the subject matter. My final verdict on the book, however, would be that it is more fit for a long essay than a full length memoir.
The main frame of the story, Lasdun's stalking by a former student is engaging. Particularly insightful are Lasdun's passages on how the situation with his former student (referred to as "Nasreen") came to engage the majority of his personal thoughts and professional life. Also engaging are the times when he stops to look at the role reversal of a woman attempting to ruin a man's career through hints of sexual misconduct.
Unfortunately, this subject matter makes up, at most, one third of the book. The rest of the book comprises Lasdun's writings on literature, his personal trips, and Judaism. While these passages are well articulated, they seem completely out of place and halt the action of the story.
on May 13, 2013
The book had potential when I first read it, and it was interesting to see things from Lasdun's perspective as a victim of stalking. However, the book started to lose me somewhere in the middle and became too analytical and self reflecting for my taste. Introspection is good to read but too much and I begin to wonder what other books I can be reading instead.
on April 22, 2016
As a connoisseur of the "I was stalked" and "I was married to a psychopath" genres, I think these are probably some of the most difficult types of book to write.
To begin with, you're describing a war, and you're telling your own side of the story. It's inherently partisan, and readers know that. It's bad enough that people in real life may speculate about exactly what role you played in creating the situation that consumed your life. Now, as an author, you're obliged to pander to readers’ potential skepticism.
At the same time, you really are pretty much an innocent bystander, and you'd like nothing more than to howl at the injustice you've experienced and document every abuse. It's a hard balance to strike, and in fact, I have not yet encountered a book that really pulls it off. Every stalking memoirist ends up sounding not entirely honest. It's a large part of why I find this genre irresistible: not only is there drama in the stalking, but there is also intrigue inherent in the writer’s self-presentation.
To add insult to injury, you can only write from your own perspective. But let's face it: from the reader's perspective, your stalker is probably a lot more interesting than you are. You’re just the conduit through which the stalking is channeled.
Give Me Everything You Have is an interesting and valuable book, and unusual from a number of perspectives. For one thing, Lasdun is a man stalked by a woman. I gather that this isn't all that unusual, but I'm not aware of any other first-person book-length treatments of this situation. His stalker also seems to be on the decidedly unbalanced side. One might imagine that all stalkers would be expected to have a loose screw or two, but many of them just seem to be vindictive jerks.
Unfortunately, Lasdun does have some trouble navigating the two problem areas mentioned above. He’s exquisitely aware of the credibility issue and takes great pains to scrutinize his own behavior. But in the end, it sometimes ends up feeling like just another form of persuasion. For example, one of the stalker’s grievances is that Lasdun allegedly took aspects of her personality and exploited them in his fiction. At one point, Lasdun engages in a lengthy exegesis of one short story to explore the plausibility of this claim.
But it’s all mea-culpa kabuki. If writers were not allowed to build on their experience of interpersonal relationships, there would be no fiction. It seems to me that the appropriate response to this allegation is "I don't really see the parallels that Nasreen [the stalker] asserts, but even if they do exist, I don't see anything wrong with that. She is not identified or implicated in any way." Moreover, I suspect that this is probably pretty close to what Lasdun actually thinks. But instead of an honest and forthright defense, we get hand-wringing theater that seems designed to appear objective and even-handed while ultimately reaching the same conclusion.
It doesn't help that Lasdun admits to having been tempted to describe--within the book--a decade-old hospital experience as having occurred within the framework of his stalking. That would have been a fairly direct misrepresentation. So the fact that it didn't quite make the cut does make me wonder exactly what else has been shaded.
Not that I disbelieve! I totally buy that Lasdun is the innocent target of a mentally ill woman's obsession. But Lasdun has a job to do in writing this book. Dissecting the psychological machinery behind the text is part of the reading.
Lasdun seems to have processed his experience of being stalked primarily by analogizing his situation to various works of literature. He also seems to think it's crucially important that readers understand this. Since we haven't necessarily read the same things, he spends a lot of time summarizing, e.g., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The effect is not unlike being forced to listen to an eight-year-old recount every detail of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. I'm afraid I didn't find the comparisons all that enlightening.
There's plenty of other marginally relevant material in this book, too, such as a description of a long (loooong) train ride and a research trip to Jerusalem to write about the history of the Hurva synagogue. These events happened during the thick of the stalking, so Lasdun’s experience of them is bound up with his experience of the stalking. On the page, though, they read as digressive and peripheral. Unfortunately, nobody gets to be the main character of their "I was stalked" memoir. Unfair, but true. (I can't help wondering if the On Being Stalked subtitle is a bit of an editorial disclaimer in this regard: "it's not about the stalker or the stalking; it's about me being stalked.")
As a narrative plot, the stalking itself turns out to be somewhat inert. It takes the form of vituperative email messages sent to Lasdun and to people in his professional circles. The history that leads up to this situation is fascinating, but once Lasdun stops emailing back, there are really no further plot developments. There's no confrontation. Law enforcement agencies are essentially uninterested. He does not want to pursue civil legal action. The climactic denouement is… that she just keeps sending email.
I do not belittle or minimize in any way the impact of this sort of hate campaign, especially when third parties are involved. I would imagine it’s devastating to experience. (And Lasdun was indeed devastated.) But as a reader, I have to admit to wanting more of an ending.
You might say it's reality; that what happened, happened. But if it were you, and you were trying to distill a book out of the situation, wouldn't you be tempted to engineer something a bit more definitive? An investigation? A comprehensive review of the situation by a psychologist or stalking expert?
on July 27, 2013
I found this book on the New Books table at my library. I started out reading every word but quickly became frustrated and started skimming. There's a huge amount of material in this book that doesn't seem related to online stalking in general or the author's experience of it (though obviously he would disagree). That being said, I found the first-person account of his experience with his former student, the stalker, riveting. It's definitely worth borrowing this book and reading those sections, which are easy to separate from the rest.