Another Review at MyShelf.Com

All the Lives I Want
Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers
Alana Massey
Read by Alana Massey

Hachette Audio
February 2017/ ASIN: B01NC3229P Audiobook (5 hours and 42 minutes)
Nonfiction / Essays, Miscellaneous / General

Reviewed by Leslie C. Halpern


This collection of essays on female celebrities – mixed with research, analysis, and personal revelations – presents itself as a patchwork of observations and insights. There’s no story or theme, other than the author sharing how her personal life intersects (emotionally and intellectually) with pop culture figures, including Sylvia Path, Britney Spears, Scarlett Johansson, Amber Rose, Anna Nicole Smith, Anjelica Huston, Wynona Ryder, and others. In fact, the author reads her work as if she’s doing her best impression of Ryder’s affected sibilant speaking style, with strange and unusual emphasis on words and chuckles in unlikely places.

As a columnist and critic, Massey is no doubt accustomed to putting in long hours of study before the actual writing begins. These essays are no exception. She quotes from articles, books, and other sources about the celebrities, in addition to providing her own analysis about what the selected women’s personal and professional lives mean to society as a whole, to women in particular, and to the author’s own growth and development. For instance, she personally identifies with Ryder’s unstable behavior and uncool demeanor, despite obvious intelligence and talent.

Massey’s emotional connection to Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen is another example – partly because the author likewise deals with anorexia, and partly because of her close relationship to own sister (though not a twin). After describing the lives of the Olsen twins on the set of Full House, she then reports on their business success and notes their struggles to remain individuals despite always being lumped together.

Her research and analysis often provide information the general public does not know about the selected celebrities. Although these insights are interesting to those who obsess over celebrity fashion, relationships, and gossip, the book’s analysis is fairly lightweight. The casually cool portrayal of the author’s experiences with cocaine, working in the sex industry, and dealing with anorexia may offend some readers who have personally suffered or seen others suffer from similar experiences. Though lacking a general appeal, this book, targeted to culturally aware women in their thirties and forties, may hit all the right notes, just like Lana Del Rey (another of Massey’s best friends who happens to be a famous stranger).

Reviewed 2017