Benjamin Morris in The Millions:
“Live your best life.” It’s one of the most common, yet worthless, aphorisms offered today. Chipper, insipid, and surprisingly relativistic (it fits arsonists as well as anybody), this meaningless maxim is the Tic-Tac of modern aspiration, boasting all the nuance and depth of Target word-art or pastel Instagram posts. Fed up with such drivel, and equally skeptical of the therapy-industrial complex, writer Catherine Baab-Muguira urges us in her debut book of nonfiction to take the exact opposite tack: to live our worst life instead.
In Poe for Your Problems: Uncommon Advice from History’s Least Likely Self-Help Guru (Running Press), Baab-Muguira preaches the good news of one of the greatest screw-ups of all time: Edgar Allan Poe. Drawing insights on work, love, ambition, and legacy from Poe’s blazing dumpster fire of a life, she concludes that the surest way to thrive is to sabotage everything you can get your mitts on, then build something new and totally novel out of the wreckage. Her literary forebears—Richard Fariña and Charles Bukowski among others—would be proud.
Recently I posed Baab-Muguira a few questions for The Millions, which she graciously answered amid her publicity tour of Richmond pubs—knocking back local spirits in honor of her favorite local spirit.