Reasons not to Write a Memoir (but why I did any way)

I didn't plan to make a woman exclaim, "But he's such a dick." (Because the book that inspired her is entitled Lost on Treasure Island: A Memoir of Longing, Love, and Lousy Choices in New York City, and because I'm the author I assume that by 'he,' she meant me.)
06/07/2011 02:08 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2011

I didn't set out to admit professional misconduct.

I didn't yearn to confess romantic idiocy.

I didn't plan to make a woman exclaim, "But he's such a dick." (Because the book that inspired her is entitled Lost on Treasure Island: A Memoir of Longing, Love, and Lousy Choices in New York City, and because I'm the author I assume that by 'he,' she meant me.)

But I did write about hacking into the GQ email system, when I was an editor at that magazine. I do recount the episode when my Russian girlfriend, who happened to be married, asked, "Vie are you soch a child?" when I politely requested that she not wear her wedding ring when we visited my mother (She refused). I do mention incessantly complaining to friends about the "whore work" unfortunate circumstances had forced me to accept, until most of those friends stopped listening to me altogether. I did explore a difficult period in my life (which lasted more than a decade) when I lied, cheated, connived and generally did whatever I thought I needed to do in order to gain the money and fame I believed I so richly deserved.

I could say I wrote the book to plumb the harrowing and commercially viable depths of addiction, but I didn't. I'd quit drinking and drugs 7 years before the events in the book take place and though the irascible narrator (AKA me) commits a statistically significant number of creepy, self-destructive and somewhat heinous acts, spoiler alert, he doesn't relapse). I certainly didn't intend to inspire a second woman to describe me as a "toxic cad." (And she's one of my blurbers).

"Why did you write it?" asked a friend who requested anonymity, with the same inflections that one might use when inquiring, "Why did you invite the stripper home for Passover Seder?"

"Why would anyone write such a thing?"

I like to think the unnamed ("If you write about me I'll kill you") friend "was wondering about my miraculous--and so by definition ineffable--vision of divinity, my (to me, anyway) salvation at the hands of a force at once personal and vast.

But I suspect he was wondering, and worrying, about other things in the book--the days I took out my mounting frustration and nameless dread on the people I was writing about (I called one "A Frankenstein monster in a purple suit"), the nights I slithered into 12-step meetings and tried to seduce newcomers (in my defense, it wasn't because they were newcomers), the winter I spent in self-imposed exile from New York City, trying to find peace and purpose in Colorado's San Juan mountains, where I holed up in a cabin so cold the toilet water froze, and huddled close to a wood -burning stove while I read books on Hitler and plotted my revenge on all those in Gotham who had wronged me (they were legion); the years and years I stared at savings account-depleting amounts of porn on television and ate so much ice cream that the Pakistani guy at the neighborhood deli recognized my voice when I called for delivery ("Ah, 40-F, Chubby Hubby, am I correct?).

I'd like to say I wrote the book to help others, but that would be a lie. I'd like to say I wrote the book for money, but (and I hope I don't offend my agent when I say this), I received what I'm fairly confident is the lowest advance in the history of North American publishing when I signed the contract. I'd like to say I wrote Lost on Treasure Island because I hungered for knowledge, and the liberation that knowledge would bring, because writing about one's more desperate and despicable maneuvers helps one to see oneself with clarity; that writing honestly--or at least attempting to write honestly--about one's sleazier misdeeds and slimier general misconduct makes one less likely to engage in such misdeeds and misconduct again. That wouldn't be exactly true, either. I learned some time ago--right about the time I was describing to a fetching blonde, blue-eyed newcomer at a 12-step program my fierce inner demons and my fiercer determination to be a good man--that confessing sins does not prevent one from committing subsequent sins.

I'd like to say I wrote the book because I think I have a pretty good story--guy comes to the big city, guy seeks happiness by chasing fame, and money and sex, guy gets into all sorts of trouble, guy starts to realize what's important and becomes slightly less of a dick--and the story happens to involve me.

Actually that is why I wrote it.