John / Memoir / Nonfiction

Give Me Everything You Have by James Lasdun

We have all heard the recent stories about cyber-bullying , particularly among teenagers, but James Lasdun, the author of Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked, had it happen to him in middle age for reasons that he spends most of this book trying to figure out. Lasdun calls his stalker Nasreen (not her real name) and first meets her in a creative writing class he teaches at an east coast college. He likes her writing very much and gives her what he feels are encouraging but entirely appropriate comments.  When she contacts him again several years later about reading the novel she has been working on he politely declines but suggests she send it to a friend of his who is a literary agent.

In the following months, Lasdun and Nasreen initially engage in what he feels are friendly emails he might send to other fellow writers, and since he does admire her work and she is no longer his student he sees nothing inappropriate in the exchanges. Things take a bizarre turn once the agent passes on Nasreen’s book and her emails quickly start to become bizarre and accusatory. Nasreen starts making anti-Semitic comments (Lasdun is Jewish) and accuses him of taking her manuscript and selling parts of it off to other writers. She also accuses him of setting up an alleged attack that happened to her before the two had even met. Soon Nasreen’s wrath moves beyond emails and she starts emailing the author’s colleagues and attacking his work and his character on various websites, some of which have a wide readership.

Lasdun spends a large part of the book trying to investigate if there was something he might have done to provoke any of this. Could an innocent comment he made here or there have meant something more to her? He also finds, somewhat surprisingly, that there are moments even when she is at her most bizarre that he pities Nasreen. He goes to the police and the FBI several times but never with much of anything in the way of results. Ultimately, this book is not just a story about being stalked but one that shows how much our legal system has not adapted to the age of the internet.

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