Literature Editor OLIVIA WACHOWIAK reviews Down the Drain after elusive meeting with author Julia Fox.
Manhattan must be getting boring, or overrated, as our favourite NYC It-girls quietly migrate to Bloomsbury. Shortly after paparazzi spot SJP carrying the native UCL tote bags, Gower Street welcomes none other than Julia Fox. She’s here to host a somewhat secluded signing of her highly anticipated memoir, Down the Drain — the queue is short relative to her Instagram following; Waterstones regulars peek over their morning coffee, surprised at who they share the room with.
A gloomy Bloomsbury lights up under Julia’s delightful presence that day; she’s even more striking in real life than her infamous online persona can capture. Though she ditches her trademark latex attire for the occasion, her John Lawrence Sullivan satin suit and uncanny hair retain its glossy quality. Her kind aura shines even brighter, as she greets each of her readers with an honest smile and a concerned ‘how are you?’ I leave the signing a biased reviewer, but I believe it is safe to say that Down the Drain is a refreshing read, almost too gripping to savour, standing out in a sea of celebrity memoirs that fall short of anything remarkable. This is to be expected from someone as extraordinary as Fox, who surprisingly paved her way to mainstream celebrity by repeatedly rejecting the norm, be it through her daring fashion choices, or idiosyncratic worldview.
As from life drawing, from life writing we also expect nakedness. The more of it, the better. Few go as far as Fox, who, in her book, as on its cover, bares it all. She exposes her lonely and at times abusive childhood, which she often muted with the white noise of the hairdryer. When that failed, she turned to a noxious mixture of sex, substances, and reckless behaviours. Julia’s later move from New York to her motherland, Italy, provided a temporary escape, until she came back running straight into the clenches of a toxic relationship with her drug dealer. Once his name was tattooed on her wrist, there seemed to be no getaway, at least until his time at Rikers. With this encompassing no more than her first eighteen years, it comes as no surprise that her later life does not slow down. And thus, neither do the later pages of the book. Julia does not shy away from the specifics of her morally-questionable relationship with a sugar daddy, or stories from her time working as a dominatrix, sparing no detail of the often peculiar requests she received from her clients, and what went through her mind as she reluctantly fulfilled them.
When I ask Julia what her favourite part of the book is, she humbly admits that ‘it’s all good’. She’s not wrong. The most highly anticipated chapter covering her relationship with Kanye, though also rich in detail, does not stand out in relation to the rest of the storyline. I doubt that to be a purposeful undertaking, aimed at separating herself from the clearly false narrative that her partnership with the superstar rapper was the climax of her fame. Down the Drain is laced with a sense of unvarnished honesty which manifests itself in its arguable imperfections – its simple, straightforward register, or traces of monotony stemming from non-stop scandal. We have no reason to doubt Fox has lived a perpetually sensational life.
Julia may claim not to be religious, having never read the bible and openly stressing the superiority of science in last year’s Instagram bio – and understandably so: who would praise God after getting slapped in the face by the head priest in the Vatican? – but she sure is ready to sacrifice herself for her readers. The openness with which she narrates very personal, often traumatic, experiences serves as a testimony to her empathetic intent to comfort those who can relate. And for others who might have led a less rocky existence, who ‘don’t have experience as a dominatrix’, or, suspiciously, don’t even have ‘experience hating men’, Fox offers valuable life lessons. She goes as far as presenting herself as an antagonist, exposing her numerous regrets – drug overuse, relapses, serious mistreatments of family – to call the reader to learn from her mistakes.
Yet, despite her undeniable misdoings, the author presents us with the story of a life well lived, for it certainly is lived to the fullest. Whatever she chooses to devote herself to, she’s all in. This manifests itself most vividly in the descriptions of her personal relationships, which, in an era oversaturated with discourse advocating for ‘healthy detachment’, are deeply and entirely consuming. At some point, she even finds herself torn between her husband and her dearest friend. She proves to be incapable of offering love that falls any short of total devotion, and such can only be cultivated in limited amounts. A passionate Julia Fox-esque life approach may indeed be harmful and risky; after all, it can so easily turn into self-destruction, bordering indulgence, obsession, addiction… but she is a living proof that there’s nothing you can’t recover from, and that ‘beauty emerges from the ashes of destruction’. In other words, don’t be afraid to give it your all, and, in the end, you may just turn out as well as Julia Fox. And who doesn’t want to wear latex these days…
When Fox announced Down the Drain in a now-viral red carpet interview, she called it her first book. I certainly hope it isn’t her last, and that she will turn her future literary endeavours in a similar, confessional direction, revoking the spirit of Eve Babitz or Cookie Mueller. Or not– maybe, if she follows her gut, by her next visit to Bloomsbury, the literary world will also be lined with latex.
Down the Drain is available to purchase in all major bookstores and free to listen to on Spotify.
Featured image courtesy of Celebs First