An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. And a New York Times best seller for all the horrible things you’ve done to me. If success is the best revenge, sometimes it helps if that success is hinged on the very public airing of grievances and vilification of the one who has wronged you. Writing a good revenge book is like a festivus for the rest of us. Minus the feats of strength.
Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
There’s so much unadulterated hate within these pages it’s difficult to pin down exactly whom its publication is a reproach against. Certainly overbearing Jewish mothers get theirs, as does the main character himself, but there also seems to be a certain amount of vitriol aimed at those lustful yet prudish, blonde venuses known as goyem. Trying to find a sexual mate as unlike his mother as possible, Portnoy becomes locked in the ironic trap of seeking women who can never meet his level of obsessive need and deviant hunger. It’s a 274 page fuck you to shiksas and the Volkswagen they rode in on.
Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross
The publishing world is no stranger to dueling biographies. Any time a new bio is published on a previously covered subject there always tends to be a slant of I’m correcting what the last guy got wrong. I am the source. But never has this motive been so anterior as in Charles R. Cross’ Kurt Cobain biography; one which descends tactlessly into muckraking yellow journalism simply for the sake of seeking out and destroying the reigning Cobain authority, Michael Azerrad’s Come as You Are. Even going so far as to provide in depth revisions of whole passages from Azerrad’s book with unabashed acknowledgement of the previous author. Of course Cross got his when Cobain biographer and actual close friend, Everett True decried Heavier Than Heaven as, “the Courtney-sanctioned version of history.”
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
On the surface the reader is presented with two-hundred-some-odd philosophical propositions that tell the tale of Nelson’s obsession with the color blue. Yet, given even a passing read the book’s true address is to an anonymous “you” who has romantically wronged Nelson’s literary persona, and tells of her long psychological journey from jilted lover to a more or less convincing pronouncement, I may still be depressed but finally it’s not because of you.
Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
Granted, at its core this book was not made to seek revenge on anyone, nor does it particularly tell any central tale of revenge. However, for those who contribute to an oral history the desire to set things straight with old adversaries has a way of becoming an idée fixe. And no one gets it worse in this book than Patti Smith. Pretty much everyone save for Lenny Kaye and Jim Carroll goes out of their way to explain what an opportunistic, rung climbing, snob Smith always was and always will be. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, I guess. But all the same, it’s probably true too.
The Old Testament by God
Do I really need to explain why this is the greatest book on the subject of vengeance or can you already basically see where I’m going with this? The Texas state constitution is less in favor of capitol punishment than the Old Testament. There’s next to nothing you could do that wasn’t punishable by stoning, immolation, or slaughter. Frankly, It’s a wonder anyone survived to tell the tale.