"ALL THE LIVES I WANT is a brilliant collection on the things women think but do not say. The essays delight and infuriate in equal measure, and Massey's sharp and poignant writing solidify her place as one of the best cultural critics of her generation."
Jessica Valenti, New York Times bestselling author of Sex Object: A Memoir
"Alana Massey's writing often makes me uncomfortable, and sometimes makes me feel like resistingbut it also makes me laugh, and always makes me think, and alwayscertainlymakes me feel. Her prose is to brutal honesty what a mandolin is to a butter knife: she's sharper; she slices thinner; she shows the cross-section of a truth so deftlyso powerfully and cannilyit's hard to look away, and hard not to feel that something has shifted in you for having read her."Leslie Jamison, New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams
"Brilliant and tender where you want it to be, incisive and damning where you need it to be, ALL THE LIVES I WANT gives us the chance to reconsider how we've absorbed the public lives of women so that we may ask new questions about how we live our own."Mychal Denzel Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching
"With brutal honesty, sly wit, and natural suspicion toward our most commonly held cultural assumptions, Alana Massey renders each and every subject she lands on a million times more interesting. From Sylvia Plath to Princess Diana, Fiona Apple to Amber Rose, Massey examines the most complicated and confusing female celebrities to shape the modern psyche, gracefully reflecting our shared sympathies, blind spots, and vulnerabilities along the way."Heather Havrilesky, author of How to Be a Person in the World
"Alana Massey's book is a diamond, in both the glitter of its prose and its capacity to cut through inferior things. This is a manual for survival disguised as culture writing. A stunning and necessary book."Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood
"Through the prism of female icons and celebrities, both deified and demonized ALL THE LIVES I WANT offers a poignant and often hilarious dissection of how pop culture shapes and consumes the women it elevates. Embedded in personal anecdote, Massey draws vital attention to, and urges celebration of, (the overlooked) sites of resistance therein. Massey's work, with prose both poignant and acerbic, is an invocation towards empathy-a call to women to be generous with ourselves and each other. We do ourselves a great favor to listen to her."Natasha Lennard, columnist and contributor at The New York Times, The Nation, The Intercept, and Fusion
"Finely wrought . . . Massey is best when she pinpoints the particular viscousness of living under patriarchy."
New York Times Book Review
"At times funny and refreshing, other times honest to the point of cruelty, but always genuine in her words, Massey's prose drips with passion and flare... A collection that celebrates and critiques the lives of everyone from Britney Spears to Courtney Love to Massey herself, ALL THE LIVES I WANT is a sharp, insightful, and hypnotizing debut..."Bustle.com
"Together the chapters add up to more than a lived trajectory: They are an argument for girls' complicated selfhood and underrated power, an examination of the ways in which female celebrities have been misrepresented and reclaimed... Massey seems to aspire to a kind of complicated soulfulness. Her prose is measured and cool."Slate.com
"Alana Massey is rightfully hailed as one of the sharpest voices today. When she's writing about women and pop culture, there's no one I'd rather read."New York Observer
"Searingly insightful reminders of shared experience humor-filled rafts of humanity in a sea of contemporary TMZ and Trump-fueled despair. Massey's prose captures barely perceptible nuances of feeling we have all felt and holds them up to hilarious effectall while discussing Daily Mail headlines and Gwyneth Paltrow's kids' multilingual tutors."i-D Magazine
"Though Massey discusses celebrities she doesn't personally know, she writes about them with intimacy, drawing connections between their lives and her own... this book reminds readers how celebrities' seemingly dazzling lives can provide insight into their own."
"Massey engages lovingly but thoughtfully with the lives and work of her subjects, and she offers herself the same even-handed treatment. As she writes her own feminist canon, she insists on the veracity and value of her own presence and voice: Courtney Love and the Olsen twins and Britney Spears, imperfect and compelling, belong in books-which means that Alana Massey does, too."
"[Massey] has a seemingly uncanny ability to perceive things in a way that goes far beyond what's visible on the surface, and then, through her writing, transform the way others see them as well, revealing truths and offering insights not only into the lives of others but also, of course, about our own."Nylon.com
"For those who have fantasized about being BFFs with all their favorite celebrities, you have to read Alana Massey's incredibly smart book analyzing the way society lifts and destroys famous women."
"A beautifully articulated, personal collection of cultural criticisms . . . All The Lives I Want is the book we want to be dissecting with all our girlfriends in the months to come."Refinery29.com
"Massey's collection of essays strikes a nerve with her poignant and grittier form of celebrity worship... enlightening and powerful."
"Massey traverses the corners of the internet that are home to Plath-esque female melancholy, resuscitating girlishness and female pain as objects worthy of study in their own right. She reminds us that girls' expansive documentation of their own vulnerability is fundamentally a project of making meaning of their (our) lives. She insists we bear witness."Feministing.com
Massey, a columnist for New York magazine’s “The Cut,” analyzes a number of topics—including female anger, destructive romances, weight and body issues, and society’s treatment of creative intelligent women—through pop culture in her debut, a collection of essays. Though Massey discusses celebrities she doesn’t personally know, she writes about them with intimacy, drawing connections between their lives and her own: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen attended NYU at the same time Massey was adjusting to the college’s frenetic environment, and the media’s sexist portrayals of Courtney Love reflect Massey’s experience with misogyny. The chapter on writer Sylvia Plath seems out of place in a book focused on rock and roll and reality television celebrity, and more space could have been devoted to women rappers’ artistry as well as their beefs, but this book reminds readers how celebrities’ seemingly dazzling lives can provide insight into their own. Agent: Adriann Ranta, Wolf Literary Services. (Feb.)
Spanning music, film, literature, time, and space, critic Massey's collection of essays strikes a nerve with her poignant and grittier form of celebrity worship. Focusing on female figures who have suffered or been subjected to unfair scrutiny for their relationships and public persona, Massey's essays link her own desires, struggles, and triumphs to her idols in enlightening and powerful ways, raising the question, how far is too far in the public fascination of celebrity? The gamut of women Massey features is broad and pleasantly surprising, as one might never expect to read about Joan Didion and Anna Nicole Smith in the same collection. Touching on relationships, mental illness, and sexuality without being preachy are Massey's strong points. Yet, sometimes the essays feel too much like a college assignment and less like a heartfelt personal discussion. In a collection in which the author references "the grass is always greener…" in a few instances, it can be difficult at times to decipher whether Massey is cautioning against celebrity or championing for certain women to achieve a more prominent status in the public eye. VERDICT This enjoyable collection has many shining moments; however, it may not have wide appeal.—Kaitlin Malixi, Bucks Cty. Free Lib., Doylestown, PA
Odd but beguiling short essays about female celebrities toward whom the author has decidedly mixed feelings.In her first book, essayist Massey collects pieces about Winona Ryder, Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears, Courtney Love, Anna Nicole Smith, Lana Del Rey, and the Olsen twins, among others. These women—often the subjects of great scrutiny by celebrity magazines—prompt the author to ponder, with wit and keen self-reflection, what our feelings about them reveal about us. She muses, for example, about what she felt when she discovered she weighed less than Spears or why, when she was younger, she identified so strongly with Ryder, that "bottomless well of uncool and discomfort," and now has begun to see that Paltrow may be more than the sum of her "tasteful but safe" self-presentation. Massey also thinks back on her fascination with Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, from their childhood appearances on Full House through their presence at New York University when she was attending the college, and she finds herself embracing the fact that "they have become the eccentric millionaires it never occurred to their adoring public they might become." These tart, original essays are interspersed with others that are less humorous and more academic in nature—e.g., about the cult of Sylvia Plath and the role of sisterhood in The Virgin Suicides. Massey's tendency to insert herself into the stories of her subjects is more successful when she's talking about a pop or TV star than a well-regarded novelist: her attempt to compare an unfortunate romantic relationship to the plot of Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays is misguided. Though the volume contains a certain amount of filler, Massey's unlikely insights into how women are shaped by the celebrities we idolize or despise are likely to prompt thought and discussion.