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Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession

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Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession

ratings:
3/5 (25 ratings)
Length:
263 pages
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jun 26, 2018
ISBN:
9780062657169
Format:
Book

Editor's Note

Thoughtful essays…

From the incredible weirdness of LA to our national obsession with stories about murdered women, this collection of essays shines a light on dark corners of the American psyche.

Description

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018

An Edgar Award nominee for best critical / biographical

Best of 2018 according to Kirkus, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Portland Mercury, Bustle, Thrillist, and Electric Lit

A New York Times Editor's Choice, a best of summer 2018 according to Bitch Magazine, Harpers Bazaar, The Millions, Esquire, Refinery29, Nylon, PopSugar, The Chicago Tribune, Book Riot, and CrimeReads

In this poignant collection, Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories. Smart and accessible, thoughtful and heartfelt, Bolin investigates the implications of our cultural fixations, and her own role as a consumer and creator.

Bolin chronicles her life in Los Angeles, dissects the Noir, revisits her own coming of age, and analyzes stories of witches and werewolves, both appreciating and challenging the narratives we construct and absorb every day. Dead Girls begins by exploring the trope of dead women in fiction, and ends by interrogating the more complex dilemma of living women – both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

Reminiscent of the piercing insight of Rebecca Solnit and the critical skill of Hilton Als, Bolin constructs a sharp, perceptive, and revelatory dialogue on the portrayal of women in media and their roles in our culture. 

Publisher:
Released:
Jun 26, 2018
ISBN:
9780062657169
Format:
Book

About the author

Alice Bolin's nonfiction has appeared in many publications including ELLE, the Awl, the LA Review of Books, Salon, VICE's Broadly, The Paris Review Daily, and The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Memphis. alicebolin.com Twitter: @alicebolin


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What people think about Dead Girls

3.2
25 ratings / 5 Reviews
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Critic reviews

  • Digging into our unsettling national obsession with stories about murdered women — not to mention the incredible weirdness of Los Angeles — Alice Bolin's sharp collection of essays shines a light on dark corners of the American psyche.

    Scribd Editors

Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    Dead Girls is a book of essays with the subtitle Essays on Surviving an American Obsession and rarely have a title and subtitle served a book less well. Alice Bolin's book opens with an introduction about the fetishization of pretty dead young women and the first essays are fantastic, taking on the way dead girls are used in both fiction and in the media as special objects of fascination. She looks at a journalist from Spokane, WA's work about a serial killer targeting prostitutes and how that part of the world has been a perceived refuge for those who don't want to live in society, from the previously mentioned serial killer to Randy Weaver of Ruby Ridge. Then she examines two Scandinavian crime series, the Martin Beck series of police procedurals, where the first novel involves a drowned woman, and the Millennium trilogy where, despite the author's avowed feminism, women are stalked, bludgeoned and tortured in increasingly violent ways. But from there, this topic is abandoned in favor of the story of the author's difficulties in transitioning to adulthood, as exemplified by her attempt to move to Los Angeles, where she wanders directionless but read a lot of Joan Didion. While the writing in this two thirds of the book is fine, the expectations raised by the title, as well as the beginning chapters don't leave a lot of room to be charmed by a series of random essays, which include everything from a survey of the cemeteries of Los Angeles to a look at literary werewolves and vampires, all peppered with references to Joan Didion's work. There was a good start at a cohesive book here. It's too bad that Bolin chose to pad it out with earlier essays instead of taking on the larger, teased at subject. I can't help but think that she was ill-served by whoever felt that this collection was publication-ready and whoever thought a misleading title would be just fine.
  • (2/5)
    This is one of those set situations where if you don’t have anything nice to say you shouldn’t say anything at all. But, I will say that this was definitely well done in the marketing teams end, because I wouldn’t have read this if it wasn’t advertised as a book about the dead girl trope.

    I would only recommend this if you are interested in Joan Didion, as the author is obsessed.
  • (2/5)
    I received this book for free as part of an Instagram tour (TLC Book Tours specifically) I did to promote the book.Despite the title, this isn’t really a book about dead girls. It’s more a book about girls in pop culture, but also a book about the author’s experiences in LA. However, even that doesn’t seem to adequately describe this book. It’s kind of just a collection of essays that are very loosely connected. Basically, I felt a bit confused by this collection. The essays themselves were sometimes very interesting, but there just wasn’t a strong enough theme to connect them all together. Also, some of the essays themselves were a little disjointed. For example, “The Daughter as Detective,” started out as an essay about a book series her dad liked, then ended up discussing whether her father could possibly have Asperger’s syndrome. Not at all where I thought it was going to go. I did like some of the essays, like “Lonely Heart” which explores Britney Spears. I was also happy to see Lana Del Rey mentioned, since she alludes to the dead girl trope a lot in her music. However, I wish the book went deeper into her. The 3 page analysis of her was not sufficient. Lastly, the final essay, “Accomplices,” was a mess. I was ready to give this book 3 stars and then I read this essay and had to drop it to 2. I just didn’t get it. It was very long, seemed to try to cover too much, and didn’t really touch upon dead girls at all. It felt more like an afterthought. Overall, a few well-written essays can’t save this jumbled collection.
  • (3/5)
    I thought this felt more pop culture focused. I wish it was more psychologically focused but still, she brings up interesting points and is a good place to start for further investigating
  • (3/5)
    The first chapter of the book is what I wanted this book to be: research, a study of a particular genre I very much like to read and watch myself - mystery thriller. It has some good observations and, even if I wanted it to be deeper and more research-y, it still posts an interesting and important question - what is it with all the dead girls that are so often set in the centre of a story? Does it always have to be a dead young girl to spin everyone around? (and, the next question from me - how often did authors choose a different type of victim, and would that choice make a story different?
    If the book was like the first chapter, I would write a lot of my own questions, maybe often argue a different point to what Bolin makes (she thinks, its because only a dead girl can be innocent enough for the main character to feel any true emotional connection, and women who are still alive are too vamp to be his true love).
    But the book is more personal than that. It is a memoir in the form of a collection of essays, that explores Bolin relationship with American culture and most of all with the city of Los Angeles. You can fall in love with Paris and the city will love you back - here I'm quoting from Paris, je t'aime (2006), or you can have a sort of dysfunctional relationship with LA, where one partner is depressed and the other is shallow and narcissistic but still somehow devastatingly attractive.

    I still want that research with some stats and numbers done, though... In the world of humanities, it is often too much of an opinion and not enough of a critical approach.