Avid readers of literature may be aware that some books are ghostwritten — this includes fan favourites and iconic works like “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and “Spare” by Prince Harry. Some authors use a pen name or alias, but the literary landscape does not often see books written anonymously. One such book that has been all over the spectrum of popularity has received mixed reviews since its publication in 2006. Despite its controversial content and reviews, one budding question still stands: Who exactly wrote “Diary of an Oxygen Thief”?
The Controversy Behind “Diary of an Oxygen Thief”
“Diary of an Oxygen Thief” is the first book in a series of three, collectively known as “The Oxygen Thief Diaries.” It follows a struggling alcoholic who, as a result of his inner pain, enjoys mentally traumatising women. Karma catches up with him later in the book when he falls in love with a woman named Aisling, who treats him the same way he treated women in his past. The book spans 147 pages and is divided into three chapters. The first chapter sets up the story and introduces the narrator’s narcissism. Chapter 2 details the narrator’s descent into and recovery from alcoholism, along with his treatment of women and celibacy. The third chapter explores the narrator’s relationship with Aisling, the pain she causes him, and his subsequent repentance.
The book opens with the narrator explicitly expressing his enjoyment in mentally harming women, as the first line states, ‘I love hurting girls.’ He admits to getting pleasure from it, using the past tense when stating that he ‘really enjoyed it,’ suggesting a possible sense of remorse. The narrative is retrospective, revealing that he was once in a four-year relationship with the woman he claims to have ‘well and truly loved,’ Penelope. However, he eventually grows tired of her, engages in infidelity, and ultimately turns to traumatising women for his own pleasure.
Some readers claim that they initially felt hatred for the narrator at the start of the book, but towards the end, they begin to sympathise with him due to his character development. However, his actions still cannot be justified, especially considering the significant harm he caused to the women he interacted with. For instance, in one interaction with a suicidal woman, he interpreted her vulnerability as a desire for him to kill her.
The narrator’s actions can be partly explained by examining the relationship with his father, briefly mentioned in the narrative. Their relationship throughout the narrator’s life was peculiar, and at the end of his father’s life, the narrator expresses a wish for his father to die faster, indicating a clear hatred. One can assume that the narrator’s behaviour and actions are a result of his upbringing, embodying the notion that ‘hurt people hurt people.’
Who is “Anonymous”?
“Anonymous” is the author of ‘Diary of an Oxygen Thief.’ However, online, he prefers to go by the name of “Oxygen Thief,” which is strange considering the association with his own extremely problematic character. Prior to writing ‘Diary of an Oxygen Thief’, “Anonymous” had no previous experience in writing literature. Not much is known about his life before the publication of the book, other than he is an Irishman who moved to Amsterdam in 1996, 10 years before the book was published. “Anonymous” gained publicity after emulating poet Tao Lin and achieved what Lin could not by self-publishing his book, with the agency company Corsair representing him. To attract more attention from his target audience, he created a fake persona on a dating website, posing as a female and suggesting that she would only go out with men who read or would read ‘Diary of an Oxygen Thief.’
He stated in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly that “I gave the impression that if they were to read this book, they might have more of a chance of going out with me”. In another interview, CBS News reports that “Anonymous” signs himself off as two different names in his emails: Tom Wilkinson and Stanley Easyday. Whether there is any correlation between these aliases and “Anonymous’” real name is unconfirmed. CBS also states that “Anonymous” is around 40 years old. In a Q+A in 2012, “Anonymous” mentioned that he has lived in East Village in Amsterdam for 10 years and still lives there, last confirmed. His “favourite place in the world” is Tompkins Square in New York, which may have been the inspiration for the setting of his book, and his second is Helmholtplatz in Berlin. “Anonymous” also does not like using a laptop when writing, as he stated in the Q+A.
When inquired about his preference for writing in a cafe, he expressed a fondness for Cafe Pick Me Up, situated in the heart of New York. However, he clarified that he doesn’t go there to write. Instead, he stated that it is ”perfect for people-watching, or more honestly, girl-watching.” This statement, when closely read between the lines, reveals a similarity between the author and his character. Furthermore, according to Malik Crumpler, editor-at-large of “The Opiate Magazine,” “Anonymous” was working in an ad agency circuit and was also a struggling alcoholic before writing his book. This further underscores the similarities between the man and his character. In Chapter Two of the book, the narrator secures a job in an ad agency, and as previously mentioned, was a struggling alcoholic. Whether or not he uses his own real-life experiences as inspiration for his book, it strengthens the argument that “Diary of an Oxygen Thief” is a memoir, contrary to what some fans claim about it being a work of fiction. Additionally, “Anonymous” mentioned in a Q+A that he could not wait to write about a woman who unfortunately got murdered in the same building he lives in, further highlighting his peculiar personality.
In the article titled “The True Revenge Story of Diary of an Oxygen Thief: Marketing, Not a Publisher is What Gets People Interested,” written by Malik Crumpler, he mentioned that some people bought the book directly from the author himself. This suggests that the author does not keep a low profile, as people have met him in person and know what he looks like. However, there is an inconsistency in Crumpler’s report. He states that people bought the book from the author in New York, while mentioning that the author had been living in New York for 10 years. Contrarily, we already know that the book was published in Amsterdam, with a Dutch company representing the author. “Anonymous” lived in Amsterdam for 10 years, not New York.
“Anonymous” is undoubtedly an interesting and complex person, with a nonchalant personality. He has definitely stirred controversy with his infamous book. His reason for being an anonymous author is that “writing anonymously allows me to inhabit the reader more effectively. Because we can’t google anyone, we’re forced to make up our own minds about what is happening in the narrative. It makes for a more satisfying read.” He has successfully kept his identity and personal life, both present and past, private from the public, although we have discovered his whereabouts and some of his likes and dislikes. We can only hope that, in the future, “Anonymous” reveals his identity and puts a name and face to his work.
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