Bolin’s debut collection is a mixed bag of essays loosely based on female character tropes in pop culture and literature, from the “dead girls” of contemporary noir television shows to the teen witches and werewolves of film and literature. Discussing pop stars, Bolin defends Lana Del Rey’s burlesque show tour and astutely deconstructs Britney Spears’s oeuvre, contending that Spears’s early bubble gum facade masks “a prodigious loneliness.” Bolin riffs and flits through topics with tangents that don’t always connect to the main theme; in one essay she begins by exploring the femme fatales in the otherwise progressive detective novels of the Scandinavian duo Maj Sjöwell and Peter Wahlöö, touches briefly on Pippi Longstocking, and then ponders her father’s recent Asperger’s diagnosis. In the collection’s lengthy final essay, Bolin reevaluates her obsession with the writer Joan Didion, who admittedly inspired Bolin’s move to L.A. in 2014. In this piece, she recounts her own misadventures in a new city, which leads to the realization that Didion’s ethos of “glamorous desperation” may be just blind privilege. This last piece is a great personal essay—it’s smart, confessional, and fully developed—and the other works in this collection pale in comparison. (June)
Bracing and blazingly smart, Alice Bolin’s
Dead Girls could hardly be more needed or more timely. A critical contribution to the cultural discussion of gender and genre, Los Angeles and noir, the unbearable persistence of the male gaze and the furtive potency of female rage.
In her searing new essay collection, Bolin probes the generations-old obsession with young, tragic heroines... Smart, thorough, and urgent, Bolin’s essays are a force to be reckoned with.
Everything I want in an essay collection: provocative lines of inquiry, macabre humor, blistering intelligence. I love this book. I want to take it into the middle of a crowded room and hold it up and scream until someone tackles me the ground; even then, I’d probably keep screaming.
I loved this book with reckless abandon. Alice Bolin tracks our societal fixation with violence against young women through an astonishing variety of cultural landscapes… An irresistible read. It’s wise and wonderful and I plan to press it on everyone I know.
A vivid and compelling collection challenging how we read and watch young women, alive and otherwise.… A compulsively readable and thoroughly enjoyable book, offering honesty and insight about the threats women face and perpetuate as we come of age.
A smart, incisive book about true crime and crime fiction tropes, loneliness, Los Angeles, and literature. I will be thinking about this collection for a long while.
I loved reading
Dead Girls… Alice Bolin’s potent voice and nimble intertwining of the personal and the cultural form an incantation strong enough for a resurrection.
“My copy of Alice Bolin’s
Dead Girls is a thick flutter of dogeared pages and underlined sentences. It made me think about what I’ve read, and what I’ve written, and what I’ve experienced, in a fresh and challenging way.
In effusive and incisive prose, Bolin examines our culture and finds beauty and truth in the tangled mess of it all. Both playful and thoughtful, urgent and timeless, this book is a is a riveting read that both journeys through our cultural consciousness and reckons with it.
Intimate and intelligent, meditative and kinetic, these essays brim with insights on how to make a life in a world that was not made for you to star in.
In this collection of lucid, provocative essays... Bolin’s writing is diamond sharp, and the way in which she conceives a dialogue between the fiction and fact of the “dead girl,” in a stunning analysis and indictment of our patriarchal, white supremacist culture, feels nothing short of revelatory.
Along with some incisive commentary on the role of pop stars, noir fiction, and the privileged nature of Joan Didion’s ‘glamorous desperation,’ Bolin delves into her own process and what it means to create as a female artist.
[Bolin’s] dryly humorous, deeply researched collection is a thoughtful critique of American culture and its disparate and disturbing fixations and fears.
This is wise, fascinating stuff.
Particularly relevant.... Entertaining and highly anticipated.
This is likely to be one of the year’s most intensely read and discussed essay collections.
Would stand as one of this year’s essential reads even without that striking, of-the-moment title…. It’s urgent, necessary criticism.... It’s also as engaging as it is insightful, the kind of book you might steal a couple of minutes with at work when you think nobody’s watching.
Excellent... an uncompromising and infinitely engaging exploration of the existential burdens of being a woman or a girl living, and dying, in our misogynist culture.
[A] sharp-eyed book of essays… In her willingness to show herself as a work in progress, thinking through a problem rather than presenting its solution, [Bolin] leaves breathing room for indecision and revision, ensuring that her writing is always pulsing with life.”
Stylish and inspired.
New York Times Book Review
[A] deliciously dry, moody essay collection… Bolin’s book is a lyrical meditation.
Dead Girls… does what all great books do … it turns experience into literature…. Amid the atomized sprawl of American cities and American culture, Bolin lays bare the connections lurking beneath the glare and the violence, daring us to accept nothing as it is.
Los Angeles Review of Books
Dead Girls isn’t all analysis; it’s introspective narrative, too, as Bolin deftly interweaves her own coming-of-age in LA with her investigations of our cultural compulsions.
Thrillist (Best Books of 2018)
Throughout her essays, Bolin runs a thread through topics like trauma, domestic violence, white female complicity, and Britney Spears with sharp analyses that... for the most part thoughtfully deconstruct a trend that says a lot about the complex, systemic misogyny buried in each of our brains.
Dead Girls! Bolin’s essays are the perfect blend of criticism, humor, and memoir. The book made me think about my own fascination with true crime in a way I have never considered before. This is a book for any mystery/true crime fanatic... or even a casual fan.
This isn’t just an essay collection but one of the biggest of the season… A smart, feminist take on an endlessly juicy subject.
The nonfiction book everyone is talking about.
An excellent collection of individual essays and a fascinating example of the book-length possibilities of the essay form…. Like Indiana Jones switching a bag of sand for gold, Bolin substitutes her younger self as the Dead Girl and bestows the Dead Girl agency, brings her to life.
The essay collection takes a good hard look at this fascination… with dead girls…. The cultural criticism serves to help us all think a little bit more about what we’re consuming — and who’s being damaged by it.
The book is a great diagnosis of some pretty popular addictions and ills—and after reading it, you feel like you made a new friend.
In this engrossing debut collection of essays, Bolin (Creative Nonfiction/Univ. of Memphis) looks at two things: America's cultural obsession with dead girls in works of literature and on TV and Los Angeles from the perspective of both a newcomer and a veteran."Our refusal to address warning signs that are so common they have become cliché means we are not failing to prevent violence but choosing not to," writes the author, the former nonfiction editor of Electric Literature's literary magazine, Okey-Panky. In fact, according to Bolin, Americans demonstrate a specific fascination with watching women die on screen, seeing them lose control over their lives to abusive husbands and societies, and, most crucially to her story, investigating the circumstances around their murders. To study these phenomena, the author explores shows like Twin Peaks, True Detectives, and Pretty Little Liars, among others. "If you watch enough hours of murder shows," she writes, "you experience a peculiar sense of déjà vu…the same murders are recounted again and again across shows." Interwoven with these analyses of pop culture is the story of the author's arrival in LA, broke, friendless, and with not much awareness of life under the sunny Californian sky. She drew many impressions of the city from the work of Joan Didion and Raymond Chandler, among others, who have painted a picture of a unique, bewildering city: "I was impressed by the unnerving sense of a city that sprang up overnight and sprawled like an invasive species over the landscape." Bolin's LA story becomes exemplary of her insights about female-obsession culture, from her wacky roommates to her boyfriends to her eventual private and public writing practices. The author's voice is eerily enthralling, systematically on point, and quite funny, though at times readers may not fully understand the motives behind their laughter.An illuminating study on the role women play in the media and in their own lives.