cover image Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession

Alice Bolin. Morrow, $15.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-265714-5

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)