An illuminating study on the role women play in the media and in their own lives.

DEAD GIRLS

ESSAYS ON SURVIVING AN AMERICAN OBSESSION

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.

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-265714-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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