It’s not often that you read a book so bad that it makes you want to go out and plant a tree in recompense for such an appalling waste of natural resources. But Zoe Pilger’s Eat My Heart Out is one such book.
This is a book so lacking that it makes me sad for all the genuinely talented fiction authors out there whose book are denied publication, despite the fact they actually have something interesting to say and the talent to construct their narrative in an engaging manner.
Zoe Pilger’s debut novel comes heaped with praise. ‘Perfectly pitched satire’ boasts the quote from The New Statesman on the cover, for instance. And this word ‘satire’ is one that comes up again and again in reference to Eat My Heart Out.
Satire is, of course, a strand of literature that paints a deliberately grotesque form of a current trend with the goal of shaming said trend-followers into seeing the error of their ways and conforming. But I don’t think that’s what Zoe Pilger is doing with Eat My Heart Out, no matter how many times I read the word ‘satire’ on the back cover or in the plentiful reviews. It feels to me as if the word ‘satire’ is being used in reference to Pilger’s book as an excuse - a get-out-of-jail-free card to excuse herself of any responsibility for all the obnoxious messages contained within the 295 pages of her book.
And this is a book that revels in its obnoxious messages. Our anti-hero Ann-Marie is a privileged 23-year-old who swans around London with her wealthy friends (the types who have names like Sebastian, Freddie and Allegra), who all take too many drugs, have no responsibilities and fuck anything that moves in the most in the most disgusting way possible - for no other purpose than purported shock value. *yawn* To make her seem more ‘real’, Ann-Marie has a job in an exclusive Soho restaurant - although it’s unclear whether her job is receptionist, coat check, waiter or chef. It doesn’t seem to matter, as she makes no bones of screwing even the most repulsive of diners simply to make us hate her even more.
There’s probably a message somewhere in Eat My Heart Out, somewhere deep in its self-consciously smug pages - the sort of pages that are overwritten with a desperate desire to match Will Self for erudite obfuscation (but rest easy, Mr Self, there’s nothing to see here). I’m struggling to find the message, but the blurb tells me this is a feminist book, and a ‘fiercely clever’ one at that. I find no evidence of either claim within the pages, simply a tedious catalogue of self-loathing by unpleasant caricatures.