The pitfalls of drinking turtle blood — Hephzibah Anderson discovers some universal truths in one woman's lurid love life
By Hephzibah Anderson, The Observer, Sunday 11 January 2009 [Online Version]
Midway through Rachel Resnick's raw memoir of sex and romance addiction, she subdues a homicidal scarlet macaw by bundling him into his cage beneath a towel. The bird turns out to be the least of her worries, but reading Love Junkie, I longed to do the same to the author: to chuck a towel over her and rush her off stage before she did any more damage - to herself.
Resnick's earliest memory is of comforting her mother, a dipsomaniac, disinherited Boston deb. She was four when her father walked out on them. After a second failed marriage, her mother, "the original love junkie", skittered from man to man, sobbing into her beer at bars when none was around. She finally lost custody of her children when Resnick was 12, killing herself a couple of years later.
After spending her teenage years bouncing between foster homes, Resnick made it to Yale and then to LA, where her life grows as hazy as a Malibu sunset. She alludes to travel writing and missed deadlines, to a stint working as a private investigator, but the dominant narrative in her adult years is one of relationships turned sour.
Looping back and forth between childhood trauma and more recent romantic wreckage, she tries to explain how she acquired her taste for the "love-heroin sex-saturated hit" and the men in whose beds she found her fix.
There's Winchester Grandview Harrington, the former underwear model whose failure to use protection she translates as a declaration of love. Then there's Spencer, who brags about his "supersperm", makes her drink turtle blood and compiles lists of her many faults. Most disastrously, there's Eddie. A painter with two strikes to his name (one for armed robbery), Eddie has a tattoo to cover track marks, brags of having knocked up a 14-year-old and tells Resnick on date one that he plans to move to Thailand. Her only reservation is that he's 12 years her senior.
There are many moments when Resnick appears to reach rock bottom in that particular relationship. When she is cajoled into a threesome with her icy yoga instructor, for instance, or later learns that they've been carrying on a ménage à deux behind her back. Her collusion in her own abasement knows no bounds and yet when it finally comes, the turning point is quaint by comparison: Resnick discovers a cache of love letters from another woman.
To describe this book as soul-baring is to undersell its bloodied candour. Its revelations are gynaecological, its prose thrumming with overwrought images, like the field of phalluses that she daydreams, "thick and robust with their pulsing visible veins, swaying in the gentle breeze". Yet this cocktail of obsession, scattershot humour and self-excoriating insights is also readable enough that you don't realise how jading it is until you put it down.
It takes a few more dead-end relationships to make Resnick come to her senses and sign up to 12-step meetings. Now in her mid-40s, she appears to have found a kind of peace.
"Only now do I recognise the folly of such a chemical rush with a virtual stranger," she says. That same rush is worshipped everywhere you turn - on billboards advertising perfume, in the pulsing images of music videos. To a less extreme extent, current depictions of sex make love junkies of us all, ensuring that most of us will recognise some fleeting elements of our own romantic pasts in Resnick's lurid confessions.
Hephzibah Anderson's Chastened: No More Sex in the City will be published by Chatto in July.