BYE BYE BLONDIE by Virginie Despentes


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Misspent youth and the possibility of a second chance from the French author of Apocalypse Baby (2015), etc.

As teens confined to a psychiatric hospital, Eric and Gloria bond over a shared passion for bands like “the Stooges, New York Dolls, Generation X.” Once she’s back home in Nancy, though, Gloria forgets about Eric as she loses herself in the local punk scene. Then, in the midst of a bar fight, she sees him. The bland, blond, bourgeois boy she’d met in the hospital now has a shaved head and a menacing aspect. She falls in love, and they run away. They travel to Paris. They go to shows. They drink and smoke and sniff glue and have sex. Eventually, Eric disappears, and Gloria returns to Nancy alone. With sardonic humor, Despentes writes that “in different ways, both of them would realize what a very poor preparation punk rock had been for later life.” Gloria becomes a violent barfly who’s frequently homeless. Eric becomes a TV star. Their reunion, 20 years later, seems like Gloria’s salvation, but when she ruins what may be her own chance to make something of herself, Gloria falls apart all over again. Despentes is known for unflinchingly dark narratives with a feminist edge. (Her first novel, Baise-Moi, is a rape-revenge fantasy.) This story, though, feels a bit limp. Punk has been too thoroughly co-opted by mass culture to signify danger or rebellion to anyone over the age of 15, so the first half is mostly just precious. And the disappointment that sends the adult Gloria into a downward spiral? The producer making a movie from her autobiographical screenplay ignores her artistic vision. Frustrating, sure, but not exactly exploitation.

Shockingly anodyne work from a writer notorious for her power to shock.

Pub Date: July 12th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-55861-927-2
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Feminist Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2016


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