Jonathan Cape, £14.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked, By James Lasdun

This dark memoir of internet obsession reveals cyberspace as an increasingly Kafkaesque domain

Hydra-headed conspiracy theories and rumours are spawned daily on the internet. Increasingly, cyberspace is where we are judged by others and, on occasion, even destroyed. If this sounds paranoid, consider how a perfect stranger can park his car outside your house and, using a smart phone, hack into your wi-fi system.

The other day, friends of ours were raided by the Metropolitan Police who confiscated computers and storage devices on suspicion of paedophile activity. The couple had neglected to secure their modem with a password, but the police needed to make sure it had indeed been "compromised". After eight weeks, the computers came back with no evidence of pornography on them. "It's a horrible thing for you and your family to have gone through," the detective constable apologised. The people were innocent, but had been made to feel guilty; a nightmare out of Kafka, no less.

Give Me Everything You Have, a disturbing, first-person account of being stalked on the internet, confirms one view of cyberspace as an increasingly bad space. Ten years ago, the British-born writer James Lasdun was teaching a creative writing "workshop" in New York when a star pupil of his began an email correspondence with him. "Nasreen", as he chooses to call her, was an attractive woman of Iranian descent, who radiated an aura of discreet sexual allure and flirtatiousness. Her need to write to Lasdun, it seems, was overwhelming and she wrote as though she was thinking aloud, the sentences flowing in a passion from her fingertips. The element of flirtation was there from the start. ("James, you should marry me and I'll support all of the Lasduns…")

At first, Nasreen's messages had been amicable, but soon they contained disturbing personal disclosures and outpourings of anti-Semitism. Bewildered more than shocked, Lasdun is deluged with ever more vile threats and insults. The emails begin to pile up in his inbox, yet for all their declarations of love-hate ("I hope I'm scaring you slightly. That would be exciting"), he feels compelled to read them. They cause periods of brooding on his own worth as a writer and the son of a famous architect (Denys Lasdun designed London's National Theatre).

Exhausted by the daily battering, he contacts the New York Police Department, who refer the case to the "hate crimes" unit. Nothing comes of the referral and Lasdun is left to suffer unaided. In a series of online book reviews by his former student, accusations are made of rape and plagiarism. By this stage, Nasreen has begun to see the object of her desire through the distorting prism of his fiction. Give Me Everything You Have is, among other things, a meditation on the dangers of transposing life and fiction (or semi-fiction).

If Lasdun is disquieted to find himself in Nasreen's private psychodrama, he knows that each of us is really three different people: the person we really are, the person we believe we are, and the person other people see as us. Who is he?

That Nasreen should view Lasdun as a Jewish "terrorist" and "plagiarizing sexual predator" suggests she may be schizophrenic or at the very least delusional. But this is not something he wishes to entertain. "I have a strong vested interest… in claiming that Nasreen was fundamentally sane," he writes. Why? Making literary mileage out of a disturbed woman's internet stalking would make him feel uncomfortable. Yet that is partly what he is doing.

The 1978 post-punk song "Give Me Everything" by Magazine is echoed in the title of Lasdun's discomfiting, often brilliant book. Give Me Everything You Have is one of the first accounts of internet stalking, and for that reason alone it should be read. I found it by turns frightening and oddly self-regarding. Do we really need to know all this? The answer, I decided, was yes; these days, we are all vulnerable to internet outrage.

Ian Thomson's biography of Primo Levi is published by Vintage

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before