Title: Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked
Author: James Lasdun
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
James Lasdun is a professor, and when a talented student of his, called Nasreen in this memoir, strikes up a correspondence with him via email, he thinks little of it. He enjoys their conversations, though at times she drops troubling hints that she may want something more from him than just friendship. After he gently rebuffs her, Nasreen goes on the offensive, stalking Lasdun personally and professionally with the goal of ruining his life.
Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked is a frightening look at what happens when one person will stop at nothing to destroy another. At the beginning, Lasdun enjoys Nasreen’s attentions, even subtly encourages them. He’s honest about the fact that he found her interest in him flattering, though he was always up front to her about his intentions. The way her love transforms into hate so quickly and completely is frightening. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20, and Lasdun sees things now he could have done to stop Nasreen, but they were difficult to see at the time. It’s gratifying, though, that Lasdun ponders his culpability and complicity in the whole mess time and time again.
Nasreen’s campaign against Lasdun, as chronicled in Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked is terrifying in its nature. The constant barrage of verbal abuse is bad enough, but going after Lasdun’s family, friends, colleagues, and bosses? It’s horrible, made moreso by the fact that Lasdun was constantly on the offensive, trying to explain to everyone that he wasn’t guilty of these offenses she’d accused him of. It’s a terrible way to live, and Lasdun had it inflicted upon him every day.
There’s a large amount of Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked that’s very selfish on Lasdun’s part. First, there’s the republishing of Nasreen’s emails and his experiences with her in his book that’s morally questionable, considering that’s one of the things she initially accuses him of (using his experiences with her to write a story). Additionally, the reader must keep in mind that we’re only seeing one side of this bizarre story. These things are worth remembering, especially as Lasdun meditates on the more academic and philosophical sides of his experiences (asides that I found to be a bit slow).
But, despite these possible issues with the book, as they twinge the reader’s moral compass, the reader is reminded over and over again that Lasdun is a victim. He’s had this horrible crime perpetrated against him, and there’s no court of law, no jury that will hear his experiences and give him justice. This book is his only chance to defend himself, so in that way, the writing of it was likely incredibly cathartic. So when it comes across as self-indulgent at times, that’s forgivable. It was self-indulgent to write, but absolutely necessary.
In the end, Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked is frightening, yet absolutely worth reading, especially if you have a significant online presence. It’s a cautionary tale and it’s very easy to sympathize with Lasdun as Nasreen tears apart his life in front of him. It’s definitely a polarizing book, but it’s one with a message you should hear regardless of whether you love or hate it.