Review: “The History of My Insanity”

I love chick-lit, but I hate the term. It’s literature — shortened to ‘lit’, cute, right? — written by and marketed to women exclusively (as men, it seems, are uninterested in the lives of girls and women). But the only thing the target audience has in common is that we’re women; an experience so loosely knit, the fabric becomes useless. A well-established genre of chick-lit is the sex worker memoir. Trisha Paytas joins this tradition with her “The History of My Insanity” (and later, “The Stripper Diaries”). Paytas’s life as a stripper and an escort is not the main focus of the book, but it is a significant aspect. In “The History of My Insanity”, Paytas tells the story of her life so far. She is 25 years old when the book is first published.

Paytas posing in a straitjacket on the cover.

It’s a short but sweet and at times twisted read with Paytas herself on the cover, posing seductively in a straitjacket. Most reviews I’ve read claim that it’s full of typos and grammatical errors (it’s self-published) but that’s just not true. In fact, it’s really well-written. The style is casual but effective. It immediately puts us in a Trish state of mind. The literary value, on the other hand, is limited. If you’re already a fan, it’s an interesting read. Paytas invites us to a trip down memory lane where we get to partake in her perception of the events that led up to her internet stardom (Paytas has also written a book aptly named “How to Get Internet Famous”). Unfortunately, the perspective she offers is not very insightful. I was disappointed but I can’t say I was surprised. It takes time to form the narrative of your life. Memories are not static. I’m sure that if Paytas was tasked to account for the same events again, the story would be drastically different. It’s one of several good reasons not to write your memoirs at the age of 25. In Paytas’s defense, however, most 25 year olds do not have material enough for a biography, but she does. There are lived experiences enough to fill the pages of a much longer book. Books, even. What she’s missing is distance to reflect on her many experiences in a manner that is interesting to someone who is not a diehard Trisha Paytas fan. She tells us at length about aspects of her life that, frankly, are quite boring, but glosses over the the really interesting parts. I am not interested in hearing Paytas swooning over her idol Quentin Tarantino, but I am interested in her perception of herself as a liar.

“The History of My Insanity” has a lot less insanity than I expected. It’s always there, lurking in the shadows, but she never brings it out into the light for inspection. “I really had lost my mind at that point,” she writes, discussing an old break up. “What I was doing was nothing a sane person would do.” This is one of many instances where I would like to know more. Where I crave to know more. Just like her internet persona, Paytas constantly trivializes her own emotional life. She admits to having feelings of course — very powerful feelings, I might add — but she rarely claims her right to those feelings. She doesn’t accept them as justified. But this, she does in style. She soaks her emotions in quick wit and self-irony but she never transcends the role of the self-deprecating girl who pokes fun about how weird and fat she is (though it should be noted that her weight is less in focus in “The History of My Insanity” than the rest of her production). Self-irony, it appears, creates some sort of dignity in the chaos of her emotions. But Paytas is not afraid of reliving painful experiences. In no way does she avoid trauma in her books. She writes multiple times about molestation and harassment at the clubs; eating and crying at fast food parking lots; suffering through bad sex with B-list celebrities for a minute of their time and adoration; being bullied and humiliated at school. She shares with us painful memories — they must be — and yet, she never really lets us get close to her. She is dead set on keeping up the facade. Lies and fabrication are imperative to sustain the integrity of the world.

The worst part of the book, by far, is the end. It’s a cheesy reflection on Paytas’s soon-to-be happy ending. It’s very unfortunate. Paytas informs us that she is writing it sitting in her Malibu beach house. This is meant to make us understand that she has, in fact, succeeded in life. And because she has had material success, that must mean that happiness is just around the corner, right? Of course not. This misconception, combined with the new-found bullshit wisdom of a recent therapy graduate, is too much to take. It rings untrue, at best.

Nonetheless, I look forward to the continued literary adventures of Trisha Paytas.

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