Literary Lens: “Diary of an Oxygen Thief ”
As Halloween approaches, I was searching for a new novel that fit a more “dark and creepy” genre. I considered Stephen King, Clive Barker and even Edgar Allen Poe, until I stumbled upon a novel that altered my opinion on what I consider to be a “scary” book.
“I liked hurting girls. Mentally, not physically…the thing is, I got off on it. I really enjoyed it.” the anonymous author writes on the very first page of “Diary of an Oxygen Thief.”
After unknowingly picking up this novel, the first sentence came like a punch in the stomach. I was immediately intrigued, eager for an explanation.
I was soon to discover that the main character is an Irishman in advertising who compares himself to a serial killer when it comes to the treatment of women.
He describes a few of the women that he intentionally hurt as if he were reading off of a list. There was Jenny, who he pretended to like. Lizzie, who he took advantage of. And Catherine, who he hoped he would push to suicide. These, among other girls, were used as the main character’s conquests to feed his unrelenting urge to tear down women.
The words that he uses to describe his version of love are shocking and ruthless. I found myself rereading many sentences only because I was in disbelief.
“Romance has killed more people than cancer,” he writes. “Okay, maybe not killed, but dulled more lives. Removed more hope, sold more medication, caused more tears.”
Since you begin to believe that this is truly how he thinks of romance, you find yourself sympathising with this unruly misanthrope. And that feeling is creepier than any Stephen King novel I have ever read.
The main character constantly reminds the reader of his sociopathic tendencies as he attempts to mimic facial expressions and “act normal” in social situations. He even describes his own pain as if he was a scientist on the outside looking in, and many of his actions are described with an underlying intent. Oh, and did I mention that through all of this, he is also a raging alcoholic?
The tables are turned when the main character meets Aisling McCarthy. Without hesitation, Aisling turns the tables and hurts the main character, just as he did the other women. He finds himself caught in a dangerous web that he has woven before. The second half of the novel appeals to his more humanistic side as he falls in love and has his heart broken.
I was very attracted to the idea of the downfall of the misogynist. In many examples of feminist literature, you are presented with the conflicted female. However, in what I will consider to be a newer take on feminist literature, you have a ruthless misogynist who suffers a horrific emotional crisis after getting a taste of his own medicine.
In addition, “Diary of an Oxygen Thief” was self-published in 2006. With the novel’s detachment from any name that could represent this anonymous author, it becomes only the reader and the words on the page. It begs you to compare yourself to the tasteless thoughts that the main character has, leaving you questioning your own misogynistic tendencies.