You will recognize authors Jillian McCain and Legs McNeil from a host of individual publications and as the co-authors of Please Kill Me,The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, which was translated into 12 languages and became a worldwide best seller in 1996. Their latest, Dear Nobody: the True Diary of Mary Rose, is a work of extraordinary intensity and insight and it comes from a surprising source – the journals of a teenage girl in the late 1990s.
In them, she recorded her ferocious thoughts against the circumstance of her life: abandonment by her father, her mother’s abusive live-in boyfriend, her terminal disease, cystic fibrosis, addictions to alcohol and drugs, problems at school and with the law, treatment in rehab centers, and all of that between the ages of 15 and 17.
The first half of the book deals with Mary Rose’s tumultuous life, additions, abuse and more. The language is harsh, but also incredibly powerful.
“Every time I drank, I would feel the little beads of precipitation on the bottle and think of it as the only friend that would ever cry for me. I’d peel off the label like I was unwrapping a present.
“I felt secure with alcohol, like I had finally found my home. Alcohol had become my mother, my father, my boyfriend, my best friend and my religion. I drank with a passion. I was always done first and always drunk first—but still wanting more—and if I didn’t get it I felt like I was going to die.
“It didn’t matter how drunk I already was, or how much I had thrown up, or how I couldn’t remember what had happened three minutes ago, or where I even was. With alcohol, I was my own role model. I was never alone…….and she never hurt me. I was obsessed and in love with her. I would lie, steal, beg, and cry for her. I did time for her; I was dying for her. I hated life, unless I was drunk. I didn’t even want to go to heaven—because I thought I’d have to leave alcohol behind on earth.”
Her mom reveals in the afterword that McCain and McNeil are the authors of one of Mary Rose’s favorite books, Please Kill Me,The Uncensored Oral History of Punk.
The second half brings more and more of her fight against cystic fibrosis into the picture.
“In the hospital, we wear our IV scabs and scars like they are badges of bravery. We flaunt our paleness as one would flaunt beauty. In the hospital, each coughing fit is like a dutiful performance by the orchestra of viruses in our lungs—and we are obligated to do encores. Our frailness and weakness are signs of beauty—and suffering. In the hospital the machines and IV poles that you wheel along are like the status symbols the popular girls in high school wear around their necks.
“In the hospital—the closer to death you are—the closer you are to sainthood.”
“Yes, after a while—those cards and flowers and phone calls fade away, much like your health. And the other lonely, sickly freaks become your new family because to the rest of the healthy people we know, we have already died.
“It’s haunting to think that my family members will not drive an hour to come and visit me while I am in the hospital and yet I know they would drive two hours to attend my funeral.”
Mary Rose, even with just this assembled collection in her slim portfolio, is already one of the finest, most insightful authors of the 21st Century. It is stunning to have the editors note they did not change one word of the writing – it’s all original with Mary Rose.
To listen to our interview with the editors, click on the grey podcast bar below. Author photo by Annie Watt.