8 Books About Glamorous Messes
What's hiding behind the glittering Instagram facade?
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
We’re living in the height of aspirational glamor. It feels as if every. single. person. on your social media feed is performing their best life at you: “Hey look at me, just casually sipping a Mai Tai on a white sandy beach in Waikiki, not even smiling at camera because that’s how cool I am.” And the embodiment of that glamorous aspirational life we all want to have is of course the Instagram influencer. They’re almost always skinny, beautiful white women documenting their cinematic adventures while looking effortlessly chic at the same time. It’s the life we all want to have, but only the 1% of us can actually achieve.
But how much work goes into performing these glittering personas? What lies beneath the surface of that Glossier Cloud Paint? What dirt is hidden inside the seam of those Goyard tote bags? And how much of #LivingMyBestLife is real? These eight books unmasks the CoolGirl™ to reveal the mess we knew was there all along.
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
Struggling would-be writer Louise both envies and is obsessed with wealthy, beautiful socialite Lavinia, who is in turn obsessed with her persona and image on social media. Eventually Louise’s fascination with Lavinia becomes so overwhelming that she tries to actually become her friend. Ha ha! Fiction!
My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams
We’ve all heard the story of Anna Delvey, the would-be German socialite who gained acceptance into the inner circle of NYC cool kids by seducing them with one-on-one sessions with celebrity personal trainers, meals at fancy French restaurants that cost the average pleb a month’s salary, and five-star vacations abroad. Now Rachel DeLoache Williams, a photo editor at Vanity Fair, has written a tell-all about being betrayed by her “close friend.” Ahh, the irony of finding out that the rich friend you’re leeching off of is actually poor and conning you.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Ayoola is beautiful, beloved, and magnetic, which may be how she gets away with killing so many of her boyfriends. Or maybe it’s just because her sister Korede is always on call to help her clean up afterwards and stay out of trouble. This dark, funny debut novel was just longlisted for the Booker Prize.
The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
Even though she’s dead, Roz, Charis, and Tony can’t stop obsessing over their college frenemy Zenia, a charismatic liar who compulsively stole their boyfriends and exploited their trust. After reconnecting at her funeral, they bond over their Zenia-related trauma—and then they find out that her death might be just another one of her scams.
Bunny by Mona Awad
The Bunnies are the rich cool girls at the MFA program at Warren University (a fictional version of Brown). The four young women love Pinkberry frozen yogurt, wearing babydoll dresses, and eating miniature food. Samantha Heather Mackey—an angsty loner scholarship student—is definitely not a Bunny, but she can’t help being drawn to their syrupy sweet performative friendship. When Samantha gets an invitation to the Bunnies’ exclusive Smut Salon, well…it all gets very sinister very fast, especially when live rabbits are used in their performance art piece.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
On the outside, the nameless narrator in My Year of Rest and Relaxation is the quintessential CoolGirl™: Rich! Blonde! Tall! Beautiful! Young! Thin! Well educated! Well dressed! She’s the sort of privileged woman who is fawningly profiled by Vogue while drinking champagne at Soho House. But yet, she feels like a switch has been turned off in her brain. Wallowing in ennui, she decides to get addicted to prescription meds (sound familiar?) and let those drugs put her to sleep for a whole year.
How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
Before influencers were a thing, Cat Marnell was the internet’s favorite walking meltdown. This frenetic memoir traces her path from privileged prep school girl to New York beauty editor and prescription amphetamine addict—and then towards an uneasy sobriety, which is hard to achieve when your career is built around being a beautiful train wreck.
Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz
Jacaranda Leven is an It Girl who spends her nights in LA at cocaine-fueled bacchanalias in West Hollywood, partying with rock stars and artists. Until one drug-hazed day, she finds herself having a quarter life crisis about the lack of purpose in her life. At 28, she decides to move away form the glamorous artifice of SoCal to start afresh in New York as a writer.