2 Sentence Summary
Diary of an Oxygen Thief is a book that chronicles the narrator’s relationships with women, many of whom he believes he has emotionally traumatized. One of these women, Aisling, is his karmic retribution for his poor treatment of women.
Summary Read Time: Less than 4 minutes
Actual Book Length: 143 pages
First Published in: 2006
Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book:
The narrator of the book loves to hurt women emotionally. He talks about his longest relationship with Penelope, who he believes he truly loved. However, he gets bored of her and begins drinking and cheating on her, ultimately ending their relationship.
He then starts emotionally traumatizing women just for fun. Then he goes through a series of women, trying to get them to fall in love with him and then ignoring them. He invites these women to his 30th birthday party, but gets so drunk that he doesn’t remember anything. He gets into many drunken bar fights, but these aren’t really fights as much as him insulting large men and getting hurt. Once he hits a girl which may have been the reason he decided to join AA.
He begins to attend AA meetings and gets a stable job as an advertising executive, staying away from women for five years. The narrator moves to Saint Lacroix, Minnesota, and buys a house there. But soon he gets bored and unhappy with his job and the Midwesterners. There he meets a beautiful young photographer’s assistant named Aisling in New York and falls in love with her. She convinces him to move to New York, but she treats him very coldly. At the end of their relationship, she humiliates him and the narrator realizes that she hates him. He writes this book in the hopes that it will be published before her photos, to avoid the humiliation he feels.
The novel, Diary of an Oxygen Thief, is told retrospectively by a narrator who looks back at his actions after he has been hurt. The narrator is self-absorbed and narcissistic, which makes it hard for the audience to trust his point of view. He also admits to experiencing bouts of paranoia, further complicating the reliability of his narrative. Throughout the story, the narrator reflects on his relationships and behavior. But his lack of empathy makes it difficult for the audience to fully believe his accounts of emotional trauma.
The narrative follows the narrator’s relationship with a woman named Aisling, which he believes is his karmic retribution for mistreating other women in the past. However, Aisling’s cold treatment towards him raises doubts about the depth of their connection. The narrator writes the novel in hopes of it being published before Aisling’s photographs, which he believes will further humiliate him.
The vast majority of the story is told through the first-person point of view of the narrator. This goes hand-in-hand with his narcissistic personality. Because he is self-centered, he feels the need to make other people understand him, inflicting his point of view upon his listeners. However, he also frequently addresses his audience directly by breaking the fourth wall. This blurrs the lines between himself and those consume his narrative.
The narrator in the story has a tendency to speak directly to his audience, which is repeated throughout the book. He’s obsessed with pop culture and the media, particularly with television shows and movies. The narrator sees himself as the main character in his own tragedy and often lives his life as if it’s being filmed.
The last section is from a trifurcated point of view. The narrator becomes the second-person audience, the third-person protagonist, and the first-person narrator/director. In this way, the narrator presents himself as all-knowing and aligns himself with a higher power.