What’s the Buzz, Buzz?

March 28, 2013 § 28 Comments

buzzBrevity’s Managing Editor Sarah Einstein asks a few questions about Buzz Bissinger’s recent “active addiction” memoir essay in GQ, and how readers should understand his public confession:

“In the past few years, I’ve bought eighty-one leather jackets. Dozens of boots and leather gloves. I’ve purchased pants that cost $5,000. I own a $22,000 coat. This winter I took a tour of Milan’s Fashion Week (all expenses paid by Gucci, in appreciation of my many, many purchases), where I spent tens of thousands more and began to seriously grapple, once and for all, with a compulsion that could cost me more than just my life savings. My name is Buzz Bissinger. I am 58 years old, the best-selling author of ‘Friday Night Lights,’ father of three, husband. And I am a shopaholic.” — Buzz Bissinger

The Internet is a-twitter with talk about Buzz Bissinger’s essay, “My Gucci Addiction,” published by GQ┬ájust recently. This is confessional writing at it’s most, well, confessional. Bissinger details not only his shopping addiction, which is itself almost mind-bendingly self-indulgent (a $22,000 coat?), but also his struggles with sexuality, marriage, and bipolar disorder.

In a statement to NBC, Bissinger says he wrote the essay “because it was the only way I knew of coming to terms and getting the help I am getting now. I have no regrets about what I wrote but I also have nothing to add.” Bissinger has, according the not-always-reliable Internet, entered rehab for his shopping addiction since the publication of the piece.

This has us wondering about the purpose of audience in addiction memoir. If Bissinger wrote this piece not to communicate something to his readers, but instead to communicate his own desperation and need for intervention to the people around him who could intervene where the reader can’t, then how are we as an audience to understand it? As spectacle? As plea? As a step toward accountability? When the addiction memoir is written by an active addict, what is the ethical reader response?

We’d like to know what you think. Please respond in the comments below.

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