What do Sylvia Plath, Amber Rose, and the Olsen twins have in common? For essayist Alana Massey, they're all considered her best friends — "best friends who happen to be famous strangers," and in her debut collection All the Lives I Want, the pop culture columnist and critic isn't afraid to get brutally honest about the ways these famous females' womanhood shaped her own.
A unique combination of fan girl admiration, biting cultural critique, and brutally honest personal confession, All the Lives I Wantis a bold first collection that covers everything from violence against women, to weight and body image, to romance and sex, and more.
Whether she's pointing out the Winona versus Gwyneth argument to discuss the dichotomy of women that is often forced upon us, using Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes's violent romantic history to obliterate the "crazy ex-girlfriend" trope, or calling upon the power of Amber Rose to get her through a stripping audition, Massey's narratives seamlessly weave together her own personal history with the lives of the women she idolizes. By turning a keen and critical eye simultaneously inward on herself and outward on the pop culture icons she writes about, Massey reveals some uncomfortable truths about not only her own feelings and beliefs, but the those of any woman whose life is shaped by what she sees in tabloids (and in Massey's eyes, that's everyone.)
But what Alana Massey has to say is only made more intoxicating by the way she says it. At times funny and refreshing, other times honest to the point of cruelty, but always genuine in her words, Massey's prose drips with passion and flare. One moment, you're caught up in a laugh-out-loud visualization of the author "crying about the fact that I'm not currently sitting under a pile of kittens and sisters" enjoying Little Women, and the next, you're reading and rereading her descriptions of customers at strip clubs, men that "ask that you answer their questions and that you love them for no reason other than the fascinating beat of their own unremarkable hearts." Beautiful and elegant, Massey's writing shows depth far beyond what you'd expect to find in a book about imaginary famous friends like Anna Nicole Smith and Lana Del Rey.
A collection that celebrates and critiques the lives of everyone from Britney Spears to Courtney Love to Massey herself, All the Lives I Want is sharp, insightful, and hypnotizing debut that proves its author isn't afraid to say what she (and, probably you the reader) are thinking — and here are 13 quotes that brutally honest quotes from it that all women can relate to.