Author Archives


Dead Girls: An Interview with Alice Bolin

Laura Palmer, Twin Peaks, American Broadcasting Company

Hope Reese | Longreads | July 2018 | 12 minutes (3,114 words)

“It’s clear we love the Dead Girl, enough to rehash and reproduce her story, to kill her again and again,” writes Alice Bolin. “But not enough to see a pattern. She is always singular, an anomaly, the juicy new mystery.”

In her debut collection Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, Bolin takes aim at what she calls the “Dead Girl Show” — a genre of entertainment that centers around solving the mystery of a dead, or missing, girl. Approaching the subject with deep intellectual curiosity, Bolin dissects texts and manuscripts — from Joan Didion’s nonfiction to Veronica Mars — that reveal how dead “girls” or women have become a trope of entertainment, serving as a vehicle for sleuthing or as a venue to sort out “male problems.” The result is a compelling case that these plotlines are not merely problematic and inaccurate, but are damaging to society.

The “Dead Girl” genre, Bolin tells me, is not just about gender — it’s equally about race. “There is a lot of privilege wrapped up in the dead girl body, and in the ways that the body is sanctified. That’s a better reason than any to let some of these stories go: the overvaluing of a white woman’s body,” she said. “It’s not good for anyone.” Read more…

A Person Alone: Leaning Out with Ottessa Moshfegh

DigitalVision for Getty

Hope Reese | Longreads | July 2018 | 9 minutes (2,416 words)

The narrator of Ottessa Moshfegh’s new novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a 24-year-old New Yorker, wants to shut the world out — by sedating herself into a near-constant slumber made possible by a cornucopia of prescription drugs. In various states of semi-consciousness, she begins “Sleepwalking, sleeptalking, sleep-online-chatting, sleepeating… sleepshopping on the computer and sleepordered Chinese delivery. I’d sleepsmoked. I’d sleeptexted and sleeptelephoned.” Her daily life revolves around sleeping as much as possible, and when she’s not sleeping, she’s pretty much obsessed with strategizing how to knock herself out for even longer the next time, constantly counting out her supply of pills.

Her behavior is so extreme — at one point, she seals her cell phone into a tupperware container, which she discovers floating in a pool of water in the tub the following morning — that a New York Times reviewer dubbed Moshfegh’s work an “antisocial” novel. Moshfegh, the author of Homesick for Another World and Eileen, which was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, has a knack for creating offbeat characters who don’t fit into neat categories. Like other women in Moshfegh’s stories, the heroine in My Year of Rest and Relaxation is unsettling. She is beautiful, thin, privileged — and deeply troubled. Read more…

‘I Was a Storm of Confetti’: Michael Pollan On Why It’s a Good Idea To Lose Your Self


Hope Reese | Longreads | May 2018 | 17 minutes (4,468 words)

On April 19, 1943, the Swiss chemist Albert Hoffmann ingested a quarter milligram of LSD to confirm that it had caused the oddly fantastical journey he had experienced the day before. To his surprise and delight, he was not mistaken –– the drug opened up a new window of consciousness. The discovery caught the attention of other researchers, and by the 1950s, psychedelic testing was in full bloom, yielding promising results for people suffering from neurosis, schizophrenia, and psychopathy.

But as counter-cultural experimentation progressed and the drugs were taken out of the lab and into the wild –– think of Tim Leary, dubbed “the most dangerous man in America” by Nixon, and his controversial LSD experiments –– there was a backlash. According to the writer Michael Pollan, society “turned on a dime” against psychedelics. “You’d have to go back to the Inquisition and Galileo for a time when scientific inquiry was stigmatized quite the way this was,” he tells me. “And it’s a measure of how powerful that backlash was and how threatened powerful interests felt about what psychedelics were doing to society.” Read more…