Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked

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Overview

A TRUE STORY OF OBSESSIVE LOVE TURNING TO OBSESSIVE HATE IN THE CRUCIBLE OF THE DIGITAL AGE

Give Me Everything You Have chronicles author James Lasdun’s strange and harrowing ordeal at the hands of a former student, a self-styled “verbal terrorist,” who began trying, in her words, to “ruin him.” Hate mail, online postings, and public accusations of plagiarism and sexual misconduct were her weapons of choice and, as with more conventional terrorist weapons, proved remarkably ...

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Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked

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Overview

A TRUE STORY OF OBSESSIVE LOVE TURNING TO OBSESSIVE HATE IN THE CRUCIBLE OF THE DIGITAL AGE

Give Me Everything You Have chronicles author James Lasdun’s strange and harrowing ordeal at the hands of a former student, a self-styled “verbal terrorist,” who began trying, in her words, to “ruin him.” Hate mail, online postings, and public accusations of plagiarism and sexual misconduct were her weapons of choice and, as with more conventional terrorist weapons, proved remarkably difficult to combat. James Lasdun’s account, while terrifying, is told with compassion and humor, and brilliantly succeeds in turning a highly personal story into a profound meditation on subjects as varied as madness, race, Middle East politics, and the meaning of honor and reputation in the Internet age.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Scott Bradfield
…[a] smart, rigorous and beautifully written memoir about being on the unwelcome end of someone else's attention…The ultimate revenge of people like Nasreen is that eventually they can get you to start thinking about them as much as they're already thinking about you, and the strength of Lasdun's latest book…is that he takes this meditation on a disastrous relationship into wider, and often more productive, arenas of discussion…On every page, Lasdun's prose is absorbing, involving and perfectly expressed.
The Washington Post - Annie Groer
What imbues Give Me Everything You Have with its considerable humanity is Lasdun's thoughtful exploration of the broader subjects of reputation, temptation, virtue, honor and ego, from his first schoolboy reading of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight through the work of Sylvia Plath, Sigmund Freud and D.H. Lawrence, among others.
Publishers Weekly
When novelist and poet Lasdun (Beseiged) began receiving deranged anti-Semitic electronic correspondence from a former student, he entered a “realm of stricken enchantment in which technology and... the primitive mind... converge with the paranoias peculiar to our own age.” In this insightful, discursive memoir, Lasdun’s tale of being stalked is only part of the story—his disembodied, if mentally violent, encounters with “Nasreen,” his stalker, lead him to reflect on topics as diverse as the seductive power of literature, like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the writings of D.H. Lawrence, and his father’s work as an architect in Israel and the aggressively anti-Semitic response it provoked. The “verbal terrorism” (Nasreen’s phrase) escalates as the book goes on, but it’s almost a red herring—it is indeed terrifying, and as the stalker becomes more sophisticated, she begins tormenting his friends and colleagues. But Lasdun is able to see past the surface-level effects of her attacks to the desperate and pitiable person behind them. This subtle, compassionate take on the subject is rife with insights into the current cyberculture’s cult of anonymity, as well as the power, failure, and magic of writing. Agent: Irene Skolnick, Irene Skolnick Literary Agency. (Feb. 12)
Library Journal
A splendid writer (e.g., The Horned Man was an Economist Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book), Lasdun describes being stalked by a former student who vowed to ruin him as she posted accusations of plagiarism and sexual misconduct. Lasdun expands on his personal story to consider complex issues of race, madness, and the shifting sands of privacy, respect, and reputation in the Internet age—relevant to us all.
Kirkus Reviews
The story of a 30-something college student who employed an array of digital weapons to attack her writing professor, who loved her writing but rejected her amorous advances. In a tale that sometimes seems more like a script for a horror film, novelist and short story writer Lasdun (It's Beginning to Hurt, 2009, etc.) approaches his subject from a variety of perspectives. First, he provides a brisk narrative of the principal events: In the fall of 2003, he was a part-time teacher at a New York college (he changed the name); he greatly encouraged one of his students, an Iranian immigrant he calls Nasreen; after the course was over, they became email correspondents, and he helped her look for an agent and a publisher for her work; when her interest became more romantic, he backed off. And with her continued harassment, his hellish life commenced. Lasdun then pauses, returns to think about the classroom situation and to ask himself what he'd done--or not done--that might have contributed to this grievous misunderstanding. He looks for analogies (and solace) in literary works--among them Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which he summarizes at great length about a third of the way through, Macbeth, Strangers on a Train and Isaac Bashevis Singer's The Penitent. Nasreen's emails grew ever more crude and threatening (the author reproduces many of them), so Lasdun tried the FBI and the NYPD but with no real success. She posted vicious material on Amazon, Facebook and Wikipedia; she wrote to all of his publishers and to the institutions where he'd worked, accusing him of having sex with his students and stealing her material--even engineering her rape. She also forwarded in his name obnoxious and noxious material. A later section deals with Lasdun's explorations of family roots and anti-Semitism. A horrifying cautionary tale that reveals the vast dimensions of our vulnerability in the cyber age.
From the Publisher
“Smart, rigorous, and beautifully written.”—The New York Times

“A fierce and compelling memoir.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air

“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

“One of those books that made me grateful for subway delays, so much did I want the excuse to keep reading it....A rigorous and moving and very elegantly wrought examination of obsession, relentlessness, power, envy, and ambition.”—Rebecca Mead, NewYorker.com’s Page-Turner

“Fascinating and eminently readable...An astute meditation on anti-Semitism, online harassment, the nature of obsession, and the power of the written word....[Lasdun’s] measured narrative has the suspense of a psychological thriller.”—The Economist

 

 

 

The Barnes & Noble Review
Animals caught in leg-hold traps have been known to go so far as to chew off their own limbs to get free. Ensnare a writer and he does his own version of self-liberation: he writes his way out. Spring by spring, lever by lever, he dismantles that which was meant to dismantle him. Then he uses the pieces to build his own trap, this time for the reader. When the writer in question is James Lasdun, one is practically joyous at having been caught. The adroit narrative he builds from the ugly hardware of his tormentor, a former writing student who stalks him for years in an escalating barrage of online hostility, is as complex as insanity itself, as addictive as the obsession it describes.

There was no forewarning — or was there? In Give Me Everything You Have, Lasdun cross-examines himself tirelessly, preempting the reader's curiosity that he bears any complicity in inciting the latently fatal attraction of the woman he names Nasreen — Persian for "wild rose," perhaps his reminder that some flowers come with thorns — and determines that the evidence is borderless. He searches for it for over wide territory both intellectual and literal, at D. H. Lawrence's Kiowa Ranch and in Jerusalem, in the "redistributive accuracy" of meaning transferred to his present situation from literature as diverse as Patricia Highsmith, I. B. Singer, and (most hauntingly) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He concludes that the trials of both that hero and himself leave each "a man forgiven everything by everyone but himself." Lasdun is as fine a reader as he is a writer, and that is saying something.

It starts simply enough, then. He admires the work Nasreen produces in his graduate writing class; a couple of years later, she initiates a chatty correspondence exactly like the dozens every writer of note conducts with those who seek him out, and that are made instantly intimate by the illusory proximities of email.

To say Nasreen's messages become mixed is to say that the forest fire burned a few twigs. Her communications veer from declarations of desire ("I do love you and am in love with you"; "you love me james") to venomous accusations that he had affairs with students, had somehow arranged for her to be drugged and raped before he met her, had pilfered pieces of the life story she had so amicably shared, for use in his own fiction — he is a lauded novelist, short story writer, and poet — and schemed to sell her unpublished work to other Iranian writers who then received the international acclaim she deserved. Too crazy for belief? Absolutely. But in the interwebs, one statement on the glowing screen is equal to any other. There's no Good Housekeeping Seal for online book reviews, or Wikipedia edits.

Nasreen's crusade became ever more serious: "I will ruin him." It operated simultaneously inward and outward, in a stream of invective ingeniously crafted to abrade not only his reputation (she sent accusations of impropriety to his employers, agent, editors) and character (the acid of anti-Semitism and taunts of declining virility were thrown in his face) but his very sense of self-determination. You really can't escape email: it has become the sole interlocutory voice in our conversation with society. Lovers sitting side by side in bed instant message each other; family members eschew talk for type; Google, not self- reflection, is how you find out who you are in the world. Lasdun could block her messages, but he knew they were there, and she knew he knew, and that becomes one of the most deadly weapons in the peculiar assault that is stalking. Once sent, a message arrives; a dozen are as easy to fire off as one. Besides, he had to open himself to their poison, in case a threat became legally actionable. Pressed finally to seek help from the authorities, he instead found himself the object of suspicion. It's a wonder she did not succeed in making him permanently mad. Online stalking is a gyre that draws in the victim and turns him around and upside down.

These curious effects are all considered in depth by the author, who teases out the strands of this tight braid: the nature of obsession; how one can be drawn unawares into "the realm of stricken enchantment" (lovely phrase, as is just about every other one on these 200-odd pages) where "the magical thinking of the primitive mind...converges with the paranoias peculiar to our own age"; and the downright strangeness of a writer being given the occasion to attempt a book like this. He remarks on nearly every implication of doing so, even to embedding the ideal promotional copy within the text itself — he aimed to write the type of book "that would interest me, both as writer and as reader: wide-ranging, unpredictable, but unified by a single, elemental conflict" — yet the final irony goes unsaid.

Nasreen had baselessly accused him of plagiarizing, and although he praises her writing, it is flatly incomprehensible that the author of nine published works, among them a novel longlisted for the Man Booker Prize (Seven Lies), prizewinning poems, and a collection of stories that impelled an important critic to assert, "When we read him we know what language is for again," would be inclined to steal. Still, the urge to defend one's honor — as representative, really, of one's essence, therefore one's life — is so acute it's like the need to surface after being held underwater. He will never get back all that she stole — "everything you have" — but he has made sure to inflict some perversely beautiful damage of his own. The final irony goes unsaid because it is enacted: James Lasdun has now published Nasreen's words in a book bearing his name. It is his revenge to take full possession of her accusations in an act of true forgery. He works the hot metal of her anger until it becomes wholly his creation, cool, smooth, and exquisite: literature at last.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson is the author of three works of nonfiction: The Perfect Vehicle, Dark Horses and Black Beauties, andThe Place You Love Is Gone, all from Norton. She is writing a book on B. F. Skinner and the ethics of dog training.

Reviewer: Melissa Holbrook Pierson

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374219079
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 2/12/2013
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 733,593
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

James Lasdun was born in London and now lives in upstate New York. He has published two novels, including It's Beginning to Hurt, as well as several collections of short stories and poetry. He has been longlisted 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 Review of Books.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Anonymous

    This is the worst book I have ever read. I can't believe I got suckered in for $13. What was this writer thinking. The ending was even worse. It seems that the stalking was only secondary to the story. He goes off on other stories that make no sense. I also think he brought this Nasreen character on himself. I think he was flattered by her attention. When a professor starts E-mailing text that has nothing to do with the class to a female student it usually spells trouble, only he was too dumb to realize it. I have no sympathy for him. Save your money for a better written book. Wish I had.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2013

    pretty sure the one star "anonymous" review here on th

    pretty sure the one star "anonymous" review here on this site is none other than lasdun's stalker.  two of my best friends have been tortured
    by a psychotic cyber-stalker. it has been a nightmare and they haven't been able to do a thing about it. hope this book sheds
    some light on this troubling problem....

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2013

    Brilliant

    A quick and provacative read. Chilling to say the least. I reccomend Ludsen's memoir to true crime and biography followers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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