Biography & Memoir Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked by James Lasdun | Book Review Roundup | The Omnivore

Published on February 19th, 2013


Give Me Everything You Have by James Lasdun

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Blurb: A true story of obsessive love turning to obsessive hate, Give Me Everything You Have chronicles the author’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 – much of it violently anti-Semitic – online postings and public accusations of theft and sexual misconduct, have been her weapons of choice, and, as with more conventional terrorist weapons, have proved remarkably difficult to combat.

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James Lasdun’s account, while terrifying, is told with compassion and humour, and brilliantly succeeds in turning a highly personal story into a profound meditation on subjects as varied as madness, race, Middle-Eastern politics, and the meaning of honour and reputation in the internet age.

(Jonathan Cape,  2013)

Mark O’Connell, The Observer 

“One of the book’s most fascinating aspects is the extent to which it’s a story about a writer struggling with, on the one hand, a version of himself created by another writer and, on the other, his own need to make sense of that other writer as a character.”

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Gerald Jacobs, The Daily Telegraph 

“… the book’s considerable appeal lies not in the menacing accumulation of Nasreen’s messages, but in Lasdun’s finely crafted prose. This achieves a level of detachment that distances the reader from the discomfort and terror that the author reports as having taken over his life.”

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David Sexton, London Evening Standard 

“Lasdun has also attempted here to understand what it is in himself that invited or provoked Nasreen’s behaviour … So, finally, he is implicated, as a writer, as a man … Perhaps Lasdun is not fully in control of how much he has given away in Give Me Everything You Have. Such is the horror of being stalked, exemplified in this stressful book as much as it is analysed.”

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Jane Shilling, The Sunday Telegraph 

“It is natural that he should wish to protect his wife and children from further distress. But his inability to do more than glance obliquely at the crucial questions of love, flirtation, fidelity and the nature of the marriage bond itself, is a problematic omission from a thoughtful and courageous memoir.”

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Nick Richardson, London Review of Books 

“To future publishers, editors, pupils, Lasdun will always be the guy that got stalked and she will always be his stalker. Stalking cases usually end in conclusive rejection: a restraining order, or some other legally backed reminder to the stalker of their victim’s autonomy. But in Lasdun’s case the outcome is a book that, for all his fears of being ‘tainted’, and he uses the word often, binds him to Nasreen for ever. If he hasn’t said he’s in love with her, he’s at least made it impossible for himself to live without her.”

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Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday 

“Did he fancy her? He does not say. In fact, for a memoirist, he remains extremely buttoned-up … Despite rumour to the contrary, real life can be so much duller than fiction. Couldn’t Nasreen pop up with a carving knife, or cut off Lasdun’s foot with an axe, or, at the very least, boil a bunny rabbit?”

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Camilla Long, The Sunday Times 

“James Lasdun’s extraordinary tale of erotic obsession is so gripping that I read the first 70 pages in one buttock-clenching rush — there is no greater narcotic than insanity combined with lust, especially if it is directed at someone as wet and lightly hysterical as Lasdun, poet, short-story writer and Man Booker-longlisted novelist.”

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Jenny Turner, The Guardian 

“The poet in him is skilled at following tiny snags of thought into marvellous, rich mini-essays … And yet the book as a whole is skewiff, with both far too much information in it and not enough. On the too-much side, there’s the lavish quoting of Nasreen’s awful emails, and the way Lasdun’s story seems almost to fan their flames … I could also have done without some of Lasdun’s own psychic self-dramatisations … At the same time, the story is also full of gaps. There’s little, for example, on the possibility (the probability, surely) that Nasreen is in terrible distress”

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Carolyn Kellog, The Los Angeles Times 

“Although it’s easy for the reader to intuit that Nasreen was unwell, it’s impossible to understand what she was thinking. Did she believe the lies she spread about Lasdun? Did she convince herself that their friendship had been a romance? Could Lasdun have managed her growing affections differently — or is this a nightmare that could happen to anyone? … Lasdun seemed poised to explore his stalking more deeply when instead he turned his attention to Israel — and all his writerly skills can’t make the connection hold.”

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Janice Turner, The Times 

“…your sympathies, like mine, may drift from this acclaimed, secure, happily married novelist to worry about Nasreen … And Lasdun appears to have no curiosity about her fate. Nor does he appreciate the irony that in writing this surely rather dishonest book he has made her principal complaint — that he has appropriated her life for his work — in some way come true.”

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