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She’s everywhere once you start looking for her: the trainwreck. She’s Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, “crack is whack,” and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself. From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and s She’s everywhere once you start looking for her: the trainwreck. She’s Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, “crack is whack,” and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself. From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman—to Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, and even Hillary Clinton, Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck dissects a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to “behave.” Where did these women come from? What are their crimes? And what does it mean for the rest of us? For an age when any form of self-expression can be the one that ends you, Sady Doyle’s book is as fierce and intelligent as it is funny and compassionate—an essential, timely, feminist anatomy of the female trainwreck.


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She’s everywhere once you start looking for her: the trainwreck. She’s Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, “crack is whack,” and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself. From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and s She’s everywhere once you start looking for her: the trainwreck. She’s Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, “crack is whack,” and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself. From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman—to Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, and even Hillary Clinton, Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck dissects a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to “behave.” Where did these women come from? What are their crimes? And what does it mean for the rest of us? For an age when any form of self-expression can be the one that ends you, Sady Doyle’s book is as fierce and intelligent as it is funny and compassionate—an essential, timely, feminist anatomy of the female trainwreck.

30 review for Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why

  1. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    A fantastic feminist book about how society loves to label women as "crazy" and as "trainwrecks" just for expressing their humanity. I decided to pick it up after reading this intelligent interview with the author, Sady Doyle. In her interview and in her book, she points out a pervasive double standard: men who are alcoholics, abuse their loved ones, etc. are still most well-known for their art and their achievements (e.g., Ernest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh), whereas women who experience person A fantastic feminist book about how society loves to label women as "crazy" and as "trainwrecks" just for expressing their humanity. I decided to pick it up after reading this intelligent interview with the author, Sady Doyle. In her interview and in her book, she points out a pervasive double standard: men who are alcoholics, abuse their loved ones, etc. are still most well-known for their art and their achievements (e.g., Ernest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh), whereas women who experience personal struggles are torn apart and ridiculed, even when they have immense talent (e.g., Amy Winehouse, Miley Cyrus). Throughout Trainwreck, Doyle crafts a compelling argument that society spends so much time mocking women, in ways that men rarely experience. I highlighted so many quotes as I read this book, so I want to share a few throughout this review. This one focuses on how we deride women for their desires and emotions: "If sex is one of the easiest ways for a woman to invite hatred and mockery in our culture - to be labeled a slut, a deviant, or any one of the many unprintable slurs that we use to mean 'transgender woman' - then ceasing to have sex with someone should be a reliable solution to the problem. And yet, it is not so. Breakups, you see, lead to sadness, and also to anger. And, instead of admitting that women feel unpleasant emotions when they're in unpleasant situations, we have a tendency to label any public display as bitter, vindictive, obsessive, pathetic, desperate, or yes, 'crazy.'" Doyle weaves her incisive commentary with allusions and references to many of the most well-known women in the public sphere. Ranging from Whitney Houston to Sylvia Plath to Charlotte Bronte, she discusses how society's sexist shaming of women has run its course throughout history. Through her analysis, we learn why we should stop making fun of women for their very human mistakes and flaws, in particular because we demonize women while forgiving men for everything (for further reading, check out this article in defense of my ultimate role model, Ariana Grande.) After the horrendous results of this most recent US presidential election, in which a completely clueless, sexual assault-loving man beat a kind, experienced woman for the highest office in our country, we need to work together to empower women more than ever. This quote touches on how we so often refuse to believe women, because of the misogyny within our world: "Simply because we've been taught to value men's voices over and above women's, our natural response to a woman's claims of violence is to see her as delusional (she can't perceive the real story) or unstable (she can't handle the real story) or just plain frightening (she knows the real story, but she's out to get him). Which means that a tremendous number of female stories - perhaps the most urgent and enlightening ones, the stories we need most to hear - have been shut down or silenced. Or it means that women have silenced themselves, believing that if they ever truly admitted what they were going through, they would sound crazy." I only take off one star because I feel like Doyle does not really transcend the "trainwreck" description of women int his book. Yes, we should honor and validate women's pain without castigating them, and also, we should strive to write about women's successes and talents and strengths. Leslie Jamison explains my thoughts well in her mind-blowing essay "The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain." For example, Doyle mentions Ariana Grande only once in this book, in relation to her donut scandal (which the article I hyperlinked in the second paragraph I wrote addresses). However, she does not touch on how Grande has won several awards for her immense talent and compassion, how she advocates for feminism, and how she has shut down sexist interviewers at point blank. Overall, though, I would still highly recommend Trainwreck to anyone who wants to learn more about feminism, gender studies, or pop culture. I want to end this review with one of the many quotes I love from this book, about how we should stop defining women based on their relationships with men: "In an ideal patriarchal world, men pursue relationships, create relationships, and end relationships; women simply sit there and get related to, answering male desire and affection rather than feeling their own. 'Crazy' women, again, are women who operate as subjects rather than objects, women who want things rather than passively accept the fact of being wanted; they're seen as unnatural and grotesque because their desire exists on its own terms, rather than in answer to male needs. So the ultimate clarifier is to ask, not what constitutes 'crazy,' but how surreal and artificial a perfect rendition of 'sane' heterosexual romance would look on these terms, and what a woman would be if she were genuinely only activated by male desire rather than her own: A woman who imitates a man's affection levels seamlessly, instantly, like a reflection moving in a mirror. She reaches out when he reaches out; leans in when he leans in; declares love when he declares love, wants sex when he wants sex, backs away when he backs away. When he leaves, she disappears. It's when she doesn't leave the frame, when she moves in ways men don't prompt or expect, that a woman unsettles us. She stops being a reflection, and becomes a presence: A person, suddenly standing in the room." Now, let us all work harder to uplift women - women of color, queer women, all women - so they can become their own persons, standing, in their rooms.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    It may sound strange to compare Mary Shelley, Charlotte Brontë, and Billie Holiday to Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Amy Winehouse, but then again, maybe it doesn’t. These women are deemed trainwrecks while the men who act similarly are beloved. That’s the premise here. But we also get so much more. The things we learn about famous women are just the big things they did for art or literature, or how they killed themselves. Trainwreck gives the full stories, the good and the bad, the glorious a It may sound strange to compare Mary Shelley, Charlotte Brontë, and Billie Holiday to Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Amy Winehouse, but then again, maybe it doesn’t. These women are deemed trainwrecks while the men who act similarly are beloved. That’s the premise here. But we also get so much more. The things we learn about famous women are just the big things they did for art or literature, or how they killed themselves. Trainwreck gives the full stories, the good and the bad, the glorious and the messy, of these women. It’s spectacular. A must-read for all feminists. — Ashley Holstrom from The Best Books We Read In June 2017: https://bookriot.com/2017/07/03/riot-... ____________________ I will never think about Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus the same way again. Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck is a fascinating exploration of why our society loves to watch women—famous or not—crash and burn. Well-researched and completely captivating, Doyle delves into the rise and fall of famous women like Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Paris Hilton, Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, and Hillary Clinton. I want everyone to read this book; we need to understand how and why our society—men and women alike—punishes women who do not behave “appropriately” if we ever expect to truly smash the patriarchy. –Emma Nichols from The Best Books We Read In December 2016: http://bookriot.com/2017/01/03/riot-r...

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    Examines our culture's need to keep women in "their place". A tightly constrained little box where we can police their voices, sexuality, clothing choices, and general behaviour. Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears are all examined and understood in their time to be difficult, unhinged, irrational, too emotional or just downright crazy. "By zeroing in on the messiest and most badly behaved women, and rejecting them, we make a statement about what Examines our culture's need to keep women in "their place". A tightly constrained little box where we can police their voices, sexuality, clothing choices, and general behaviour. Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears are all examined and understood in their time to be difficult, unhinged, irrational, too emotional or just downright crazy. "By zeroing in on the messiest and most badly behaved women, and rejecting them, we make a statement about what makes a woman good. The trainwreck is the girl who breaks the rules of the game and gets punished, which means that she’s actually the best indication of which game we’re playing and what the rules are.” Why is Jennifer Aniston understood as a sad, childless, lovelorn woman? Why do we love to hate on the Kardashians. Why is Janet Jackson reviled for her NippleGate halftime antics but Justin Timberlake is hardly mentioned? What is the standard we hold Hillary Clinton to that Donald Trump manages to avoid. Where does Christine Blasey Ford stand in relation to Brett Kavanaugh? It's a readjusting of focus, an altered view of our voyeurism fuelled by TMZ and the message it sends into the world. How we, whether we realize it or not, police women everyday. We snigger at Taylor Swift for singing about her breakups while conveniently forgetting that Steven Tyler of Aerosmith adopted an underage girl and impregnated her or applauding the bad behaviour of male rock stars in movies like The Dirt. It's no screed but a smart, engaging book that reads like your smartest friend dropping some serious knowledge on your ass over beers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Now, those who know me know I'm the LAST person to compare Miley Cyrus and Vincent Van Gogh. But as models for a larger argument..... Van Gogh struggled with his demons and the struggle turned him into a tortured genius. Without an ear. Cyrus struggled, that's for sure. 'Cause she's just crazy. Surprising that one's a man and one's a woman? This is a hugely entertaining callout of some more unusual double-standards. And all modelled around the idea of a trainwreck woman. Funny how men aren't trainw Now, those who know me know I'm the LAST person to compare Miley Cyrus and Vincent Van Gogh. But as models for a larger argument..... Van Gogh struggled with his demons and the struggle turned him into a tortured genius. Without an ear. Cyrus struggled, that's for sure. 'Cause she's just crazy. Surprising that one's a man and one's a woman? This is a hugely entertaining callout of some more unusual double-standards. And all modelled around the idea of a trainwreck woman. Funny how men aren't trainwrecks...they have a redemption story. Using historical women and modern examples, this is the true heir to Kate Bolick's Spinster .

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Too bad there's only 5 stars for this review because I'd give it a 6! Trainwreck is a powerhouse of a book! It's smart, it's funny at times, it's heartbreaking, gut-wrenching and will make you angry as hell (or it should)! Sady Doyle - you may not think you are a "strong feminist woman" at times I don't think I am either, but that isn't really the point. How we identify ourselves and be women in this misogynist society making great art, writing books, running businesses, raising families, in the Too bad there's only 5 stars for this review because I'd give it a 6! Trainwreck is a powerhouse of a book! It's smart, it's funny at times, it's heartbreaking, gut-wrenching and will make you angry as hell (or it should)! Sady Doyle - you may not think you are a "strong feminist woman" at times I don't think I am either, but that isn't really the point. How we identify ourselves and be women in this misogynist society making great art, writing books, running businesses, raising families, in the midst of it all, or in spite of it all - being our-selves. This book is filled with "a-ha" moments. I found myself underlying passages and reading some of them out loud to my daughter. This is a much needed manifesto. Doyle is a force of nature and a voice of reason! Loved it!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anmiryam

    Everyone needs to read this book when it comes out in September. Yes, you too.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Punk

    The trainwreck. If you've spent any time exposed to western culture, you can probably name one or two, a woman who had it all, and lost it, and the media frenzy dedicated to documenting her every move. We build these women up and then we tear them down for our own entertainment. If they die young enough, they're redeemed, again perfect in our eyes. If they live long enough—age past the point women are considered relevant—they're forgotten. The trainwreck is part circus sideshow and part cautionar The trainwreck. If you've spent any time exposed to western culture, you can probably name one or two, a woman who had it all, and lost it, and the media frenzy dedicated to documenting her every move. We build these women up and then we tear them down for our own entertainment. If they die young enough, they're redeemed, again perfect in our eyes. If they live long enough—age past the point women are considered relevant—they're forgotten. The trainwreck is part circus sideshow and part cautionary tale, a narrative necessary to keep women in line, to show what happens when we as a society disregard what it means to be "feminine," when women step out of place and speak too loudly, want too much, feel too much, demand too much. In men, this behavior is considered strong and brave; in women it's a sign of insanity. This is Doyle's theory of the trainwreck, and she takes us through all the things the title promises. Her argument is well structured, never forgets its purpose, and comes together to build a cohesive whole. The book's profiles include women of color, as well as queer women, and go all the way back to Mary Wollstonecraft—not someone I would have named as a trainwreck, but she definitely got the trainwreck treatment after her death when her husband released her papers, all of her papers. Sylvia Plath's profile, on the other hand, reminds us what happens when your ex-husband has control of your work, and edits and censors it according to his own agenda. The profiles are, in fact, probably none of the trainwrecks you would have listed if asked—Charlotte Brontë, Harriet Jacobs, Valerie Solanas—but they prove that TMZ didn't invent the trainwreck treatment; it's been around a long time, and the things Billie Holiday had to put up with are very similar to the things Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, and Whitney Houston had to deal with. There's a definite pattern. And it's a pattern Doyle points out again and again. But even as you're collapsing under the weight of centuries of oppression, her prose is easy to read, light and casual, and casually profane, and her points are clear. The book has the research to back it up, too, and though that work is almost invisible in the text, it's detailed thoroughly in the copious endnotes. I didn't relate to some of her more personal conclusions, which is understandable as they're clearly informed by her own experiences, and she skips over some details, assuming we know exactly what she means when she talks about Britney Spears and an umbrella, but none of that takes away from her message. That these women were, in many ways, ahead of their time, doing and saying things that were frightening because they went against current social mores. But they were also just living, wanting things, having feelings, and not holding them back—something that's been pathologized in women even before there was a word for it—and as Doyle writes, "The trainwreck is alive. And for a women to be fully alive is revolutionary." I'll admit, this is a frustrating and upsetting topic to read about, especially now, in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential election and the rise of public figures who are openly encouraging misogyny and sexism, but following the coverage of the Women's March, today, January 21, 2017, a day after Trump was inaugurated, gives me hope that we can pull together, stop lashing out in fear, and step out and be revolutionary.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    "And the trainwreck is crazy because we're all crazy -- because, in a sexist culture, being female is an illness for which there is no cure." Yup, that about sums it up, right? This was an interesting book. It started off kind of meh for me. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I was waiting on how this book would differentiate itself from all the other feminist volumes currently on the scene in 2016. And it did! The tie-ins to history were fascinating and what made this book unique. It was a great historical "And the trainwreck is crazy because we're all crazy -- because, in a sexist culture, being female is an illness for which there is no cure." Yup, that about sums it up, right? This was an interesting book. It started off kind of meh for me. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I was waiting on how this book would differentiate itself from all the other feminist volumes currently on the scene in 2016. And it did! The tie-ins to history were fascinating and what made this book unique. It was a great historical search of society's pretty much never-ending hate of women tied to mostly the pop culture icons we see today and why we hate them. But I want to skip all that discussion -- lots of other people have it done it better than me, and have great stuff to say --, and just say give the book a read, to this pep talk near the end in the revolutionary section: "That's all being strong is, apparently: being scared, or flawed, or weak, or capable (under the right circumstances) of astonishing acts of stupidity. And then going out and doing it all anyway. Trying ever morning, to be the woman you want to be, regardless of how often you manage to fall short of your own high expectations." "But it is, perhaps, less painful to be punished for what you do than to punish yourself by never doing anything at all." Shit. That last line though. Is that not the best rationale for "get up and do something" you have ever heard? The author was talking about this more in the context of don't fear the public scorn, but it works on a lot of levels, really, and I'm going to take it that way :) Oh and also, this book is just another solid entry into the "men are the worst" list I'm keeping ;) ETA: also immediately after reading this book, I started watching the Lindsay documentary on OWN.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    Trainwreck was published on my birthday, so it was kind of like Sady Doyle was giving me a birthday gift. Not really, at all, in any way. But still, a great coincidence. I’ve enjoyed reading their writing on various sites for years now, so when I heard they had an honest-to-goodness actual book coming out, I was elated. Fortunately, Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear … and Why does not disappoint. It appoints. It appoints very much. Doyle’s criticism of media and the consumer Trainwreck was published on my birthday, so it was kind of like Sady Doyle was giving me a birthday gift. Not really, at all, in any way. But still, a great coincidence. I’ve enjoyed reading their writing on various sites for years now, so when I heard they had an honest-to-goodness actual book coming out, I was elated. Fortunately, Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear … and Why does not disappoint. It appoints. It appoints very much. Doyle’s criticism of media and the consumer habits that support the way media recycle the same narratives about women over and over is nuanced, fascinating, well-researched, and on point (can I still say “on fleek”? It’s too late to say “on fleek”, right?) This is a big subject for Doyle to tackle in an organized fashion. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Doyle starts with sex, linking the packaging of sex for consumption with the pressure women in the spotlight face to sexualize themselves. The irony (spoiler alert) is that it turns out women who volunteer their sexuality are seen as sluts, while chaste-appearing women whose sexuality is displayed without their consent are shamed even as they are ogled: A victim turns into a perpetrator; a naked body that people were willing to commit theft to see becomes unsightly and shameful the moment it’s exposed consensually. Sexually pure or sexual predator, uncorrupted virgin or corrupting whore, godly or Godzilla: These are the options. Thus are trainwrecks made. Doyle presents us with examples of trainwrecks from as far back as the French Revolution. They emphasize that, indeed, these historical trainwrecks are not all that different from the celebrity trainwrecks of today, despite the differences in technology. In all these cases, it boils down to the patriarchal need to control women’s sexuality, and to punish women who deviate or resist that control by labelling them immoral, mad, and then continuing to punish them until they die, at which point they can possibly earn redemption (or not). Wow, when I put it that way, it sounds really depressing. Indeed, this feeling predominates throughout the book, and I had to keep reminding myself that it isn’t Doyle who is depressing me so much as the society they describe. There’s just so much wrong with the way our society treats women, and in particular the way our media vilify some women while putting others on a pedestal—and then the next day, or week, those women’s positions get switched. We have to be careful, though. We can’t fall into the trap of just saying “the media” like it’s a single monster (if it were, it would be a hydra, I’m sure). There is no oligarchy pulling the strings of this puppet to make it dance to a sexist tune. We pull the strings. Media platforms respond to us and what we choose to consume. We are part of the problem, we who come to gawk and rubberneck at the trainwrecks. This is the theme Doyle advances in the latter third of the book. After covering the ways in which we shame trainwrecks, and the ways in which trainwrecks can respond (silence or embrace, essentially), Doyle looks at why we have trainwrecks at all (emphasis original): Somehow, in the midst of the French Revolution, we, as humans, managaed to stumble onto one more crucial insight. The media could advance any political agenda it wanted, and whip up people’s emotions in any direction they felt necessary, and they didn’t even have to tell the truth to do it, as long as the other side was projected onto the body of an unlikable woman. There and then, in Theroigne and Marie, in war and blood and turmoil, the contemporary trainwreck was forged. Oooohhh. That line, like so many others in this book, makes me shudder. It’s a powerful, albeit tragic, description of how we use and abuse women to keep certain people and groups in power. Doyle grounds the issue firmly in a systemic perspective, which I like, but they do not excuse individuals from the way they act in that system. (Incidentally, this last chapter about the French Revolution has a typo on page 224 that jumped out at me—Doyle mentions “the incompetent King Louis XIV” whereas Louis XVI was king at the time of the revolution. Fast fingers make for good enemies sometimes.) Although reading about the tragedies perpetrated upon so many women can be saddening, I like Doyle’s conclusion and call to action. Their point is that we cannot fix the current system. There is no way to be a “good girl”, to become immune to being a trainwreck. The only solution is to opt-out. To flip the script. To be revolutionary. And for those who are male or otherwise insulated from this phenomenon courtesy of our privilege, we need to step up and help women be revolutionary, support them instead of tearing them down, and check that rather than participating in trainwreck narratives we are doing all we can to fight them. Because it is, ultimately, all about the narrative. Trainwreck is a story about the stories we tell about women. And you all know how much I love books about storytelling. More broadly, storytelling is so crucial now that social media has become both a way we get news and a way we interact with each other. This was never demonstrated so clearly as during the recent American election, where the narrative you consumed thanks to your personal bubble influenced your opinions about whether or not to go and vote (if you are American) and who you thought was going to win. The stories we tell have power over our lives. I came to this book as someone who has gone from an awareness of injustice and inequity towards a position of wanting to fight against it while acknowledging how I participate in systems of oppression. This is the gradual progression that many people make, and it is essential if one hopes to be an intersectional feminist. So for me, Trainwreck was largely a lot of head-nodding—nothing Doyle says seems really strange or new to me, though they often express it more eloquently, or illustrates it with an example from history or pop culture that had previously been unknown to me. I don’t have the perspective required to say for sure how someone newer to feminist thought would react to this book. But I’d like to think that it is thought-provoking and edifying: I think that if you’re open to learning more about misogyny in our culture, this book will work for you. At the beginning of my review I remarked that this book came as kind of like a birthday gift to me. I’m actually giving it as a birthday gift to the friend who lent me Spinster , Decoded , and Men Explain Things to Me . I debated doing so, simply because it is a depressing book at times, and we’re both still kind of shattered over the way Clinton was treated during the election. But I value our conversations about feminism and our differing perspectives over pop culture, and I’m interested in the conversations we will have because of this book. It’s one thing to enjoy a book by oneself and another thing entirely to enjoy a book with others. Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    Holy feminism! This book is awesome! I want to sit our entire society down and force their eyeballs to deliver these words to their brains. Even as a self-declared and lifelong Angry Liberal Feminist Killjoy, this book made me take a hard look at the ways I let the patriarchy and their media control how I judge other women. I mean - this book even made me vow to stop judging the Kardashians. All of them. So that's pretty powerful stuff. Thank you Sady Doyle -thank you so much. Holy feminism! This book is awesome! I want to sit our entire society down and force their eyeballs to deliver these words to their brains. Even as a self-declared and lifelong Angry Liberal Feminist Killjoy, this book made me take a hard look at the ways I let the patriarchy and their media control how I judge other women. I mean - this book even made me vow to stop judging the Kardashians. All of them. So that's pretty powerful stuff. Thank you Sady Doyle -thank you so much.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Holstrom

    It may sound strange to compare Mary Shelley, Charlotte Bronte, and Billie Holiday to Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Amy Winehouse, but then again, maybe it doesn’t. These women are deemed trainwrecks while the men who act similarly are beloved. We are fed tabloid madness about women, but the men are usually left out, unscathed. Sady Doyle digs into famous women throughout history and finds that many stories are similar, decade after decade. I absolutely loved this on audio. From 13 Fabulous Fe It may sound strange to compare Mary Shelley, Charlotte Bronte, and Billie Holiday to Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Amy Winehouse, but then again, maybe it doesn’t. These women are deemed trainwrecks while the men who act similarly are beloved. We are fed tabloid madness about women, but the men are usually left out, unscathed. Sady Doyle digs into famous women throughout history and finds that many stories are similar, decade after decade. I absolutely loved this on audio. From 13 Fabulous Feminist Audiobooks at Book Riot.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    A powerful and passionate look at the ways in which society likes to tear down women who buck the norms: women who are "too messy", "too emotional", "too crazy", or "too demanding" in public. Think Lindsay, Whitney, Britney—all of these women and more, Sady Doyle argues, are the pop culture version of the fallen woman. First they are held up as idols; then they are torn down. Doyle traces the evolution of the trainwreck archetype over a period of some two centuries, from Mary Wollstonecraft in t A powerful and passionate look at the ways in which society likes to tear down women who buck the norms: women who are "too messy", "too emotional", "too crazy", or "too demanding" in public. Think Lindsay, Whitney, Britney—all of these women and more, Sady Doyle argues, are the pop culture version of the fallen woman. First they are held up as idols; then they are torn down. Doyle traces the evolution of the trainwreck archetype over a period of some two centuries, from Mary Wollstonecraft in the eighteenth century to Miley Cyrus in the twenty-first, and argues persuasively that the trainwreck is held up as a totemic cultural figure, a cautionary tale to dissuade women from being ambitious or demanding attention. Even women of genius and talent—perhaps even especially such women—like Billie Holiday and Charlotte Brontë can be and have been framed in such a way. Now, Doyle's case studies don't always work. She calls Harriet Jacobs—abolitionist, former slave, and author of the harrowing autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl—a trainwreck, but this seems to awkwardly shoehorn the life of an unbowed badass into a mould that doesn't quite fit. I also don't agree with her framing of social and cultural mores in the West as trending consistently towards the left/progressivism in time. That's both a presentist view, and one that perhaps I'm perhaps too pessimistic right now to be able to enter into (oh 2017, you unremitting dumpster fire). Still, as a thought-provoking book—one that's written with vibrancy and a knowledge of when to deploy a well-timed F-bomb—this is well worth picking up. (I listened to the audiobook version, which I thought was pretty well done but why do some audiobook readers seemingly refuse to invest the time in learning how to pronounce words in other languages? It doesn't take long and it would mean that I wouldn't have to cringe at "monsieur" becoming "mohn-syewer", or spend a long time figuring out that "TUHR-wine" was supposed to be "Théroigne.")

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    What do Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, and Billie Holiday have in common? They’re all trainwrecks! Trainwreck is one of those novels you have to experience to understand how awesome it is. I used the word experience instead of read because reading this novel is a powerful experience in and of it self. “A victim turns perpetrator; a naked body that people were willing to commit theft to see becomes unsightly and shameful the moment it’s exposed cons What do Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, and Billie Holiday have in common? They’re all trainwrecks! Trainwreck is one of those novels you have to experience to understand how awesome it is. I used the word experience instead of read because reading this novel is a powerful experience in and of it self. “A victim turns perpetrator; a naked body that people were willing to commit theft to see becomes unsightly and shameful the moment it’s exposed consensually. Sexually pure or sexual predator, uncorrupted virgin or corrupting whore, godly or Godzilla: these are the options. Thus are train wrecks made. Doyle walks the reader through the making of a trainwreck, her options, and her role in our culture. Throughout each of these sections Doyle weaves a compelling narrative with ample evidence that will leave you stunned, stocked, and disgusted. I wouldn’t say that I’m an avid consumer of celebrity gossip, but that kind of information always finds its way into my repertoire of facts, so I was nauseated at how these women were exploited, in life and in death. Each chapter of the novel is deeply entrenched in telling the reader, not convincing, that trainwrecks are engrained in our culture. Doyle demonstrates this by including analysis of some of the most well known women and how they were dragged through the mud for their thoughts and actions. Seeing Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus being compared to Mary Wollstonecraft and Billie Holiday is eye opening and effective. “A live trainwreck is an affront. A dead one is confirmation: No one can be that beautiful, that sexual, that successful, that free. Something has to go wrong; she has to pay, with her life, for breaking the rules.” I could sit here and throw around words like “powerful”, “groundbreaking”, “eyeopening”, “unabashedly feminist”, and “brilliant”, but these words still wouldn’t do Doyle’s work justice. So, just read it!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    I almost didn't pick this one up because it's the kind of book I feel I've already read. Yes, we are all aware that we're living in a sexist, patriarchal society and that as women we are taught to hate ourselves from a young age. I think most of us get that, so why pick up a book about what we already know? When I saw Trainwreck at the bookstore I was surprised at how quickly and hungrily I reached for it. In retrospect it makes sense. This has been a particularly tough year to get through as a I almost didn't pick this one up because it's the kind of book I feel I've already read. Yes, we are all aware that we're living in a sexist, patriarchal society and that as women we are taught to hate ourselves from a young age. I think most of us get that, so why pick up a book about what we already know? When I saw Trainwreck at the bookstore I was surprised at how quickly and hungrily I reached for it. In retrospect it makes sense. This has been a particularly tough year to get through as a woman, thanks in large part to all of the misogyny that has surfaced surrounding our current U.S. presidential election, from people on both ends of the political spectrum. And I've read Sady Doyle's essays before so I know she's someone who gets it and feels some of what I have been feeling too. So of course I would want to read her book right now! It was great. So entertaining and so sharp. Doyle makes sometimes unexpected connections (between Britney Spears and Hillary Clinton, for instance), that shed light on our society's obsession with the ridicule and disproportionate judgment of women in the public eye. I was surprised at how much I learned, and fascinated to see century-old replicas of issues and stories that feel so specific to 2016. It was just an overall very rewarding read. I'm so glad I bought it instead of borrowing it from the library because I know I'll be rereading many passages in the future!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Years ago, late for a staff meeting at work, I hurriedly and accidentally barged into the wrong conference room. The room went silent and the people in the room whom I knew only slightly all gave me a what-are-you-doing-here-you-don't-belong-here look and I awkwardly backed out. Reading this book gave me a similar feeling. This is mainly a discussion of how pop culture and popular media treat famous women unfairly. Well, yeah. Pop culture and media alter everyone's story to fit whatever narrati Years ago, late for a staff meeting at work, I hurriedly and accidentally barged into the wrong conference room. The room went silent and the people in the room whom I knew only slightly all gave me a what-are-you-doing-here-you-don't-belong-here look and I awkwardly backed out. Reading this book gave me a similar feeling. This is mainly a discussion of how pop culture and popular media treat famous women unfairly. Well, yeah. Pop culture and media alter everyone's story to fit whatever narrative they're pushing. I did learn some interesting historical stuff about Charlotte Bronte and Mary Wollstonecraft (Mary Shelley's mother!), but the author lost me when she compared the challenges they faced with those of Miley Cyrus or Paris Hilton. Those latter two aren't victims of gawking media, they are, as is said, volunteers. I'm sure there are many who found this stuff greatly entertaining and informative, but I did not.

  16. 4 out of 5

    B.reader

    I loved this book. It was a thoughtful, well-researched, and compelling exploration of a topic we don't often treat with any sort of gravitas--celebrity women, those "trainwrecks" that so grip our gossip and collective imagination. I was expecting a light and entertaining read, and was instead pulled into Doyle's emotionally resonant analysis of both our modern understanding of the female trainwreck and her tracing of the concept through history. As a former English major I was interested in her I loved this book. It was a thoughtful, well-researched, and compelling exploration of a topic we don't often treat with any sort of gravitas--celebrity women, those "trainwrecks" that so grip our gossip and collective imagination. I was expecting a light and entertaining read, and was instead pulled into Doyle's emotionally resonant analysis of both our modern understanding of the female trainwreck and her tracing of the concept through history. As a former English major I was interested in her discussion of Mary Wollstonecraft and the Brontes as well as lesser-known (to me) historical figures. I think that this book should be required reading for men and women, as it untangles our often conflicting and ambivalent treatment of women, fame, and the impossible to achieve "feminine ideal." This book is going to be my go-to gift for the holiday season.

  17. 4 out of 5

    vanessa

    I tabbed this more than 30 times. There are so many great comments about gender in our society and how we treat and react to female behavior. Best of all it dealt with two topics I love: celebrities/pop culture (Britney forever) and history (by exploring historical women who might've fit the trainwreck narrative of today). I learned so much about women in history I have never heard of and of famous women/"trainwrecks" whose stories permeate the media. It is so smart and I definitely want to pick I tabbed this more than 30 times. There are so many great comments about gender in our society and how we treat and react to female behavior. Best of all it dealt with two topics I love: celebrities/pop culture (Britney forever) and history (by exploring historical women who might've fit the trainwreck narrative of today). I learned so much about women in history I have never heard of and of famous women/"trainwrecks" whose stories permeate the media. It is so smart and I definitely want to pick it up again.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lissa

    I will admit that I don't stay informed when it comes to celebrity culture; I don't really know who is considered a popular actress or actor nowadays. But the themes talked about in this book are recurring; they play out in every generation, it seems, even if they evolve a bit to keep up with the times. The author is around my age (mid-30s), so she discusses a lot of examples from the early 2000s, of which I am more aware (Britney Spears, Tara Reid, etc). We all know the "trainwreck" - the actre I will admit that I don't stay informed when it comes to celebrity culture; I don't really know who is considered a popular actress or actor nowadays. But the themes talked about in this book are recurring; they play out in every generation, it seems, even if they evolve a bit to keep up with the times. The author is around my age (mid-30s), so she discusses a lot of examples from the early 2000s, of which I am more aware (Britney Spears, Tara Reid, etc). We all know the "trainwreck" - the actress who can't keep her shit together, who has sex when she wants to (the horror!!!), who delves into alcohol or drugs or some combination of both, whose life falls apart as the paparazzi circle her head like so many vultures waiting on their next meal. But WHY are these "trainwrecks" almost exclusively female? Because even as a teenager, I realized that male and female celebrities were treated differently by the media. Britney Spears admits to having lost her virginity to her long-term boyfriend? What a slut and hypocrite! Meanwhile, an actor can be sleeping his way through half of Hollywood and it's all "oh, what a rake and a charmer! ;)" Paparazzi wait, crouched down to waist level, in the hopes of snapping an "up-skirt" picture for a rising teenaged starlet, and once that picture is splashed everywhere, it is somehow the actress who comes across as "bad" - not the photographers who are trying, literally, to look up a teenager's skirt. (And if she had been wearing underwear, I am sure someone would have blogged about her panty lines.) Doyle tries to explain why this happens so routinely, and she does a pretty damned good job, too. She traces it all back to feminism - trying to keep the "errant" females quiet, the shaming that is so often involved to keep women "in line," often performed by women as a group - and links modern cases to historical "trainwrecks," such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, and even Monica Lewinsky. I found this book to be fascinating, and I had a hard time putting it down. I'd definitely recommend it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Read

    This book is amazing. It gives context - historical context - to the "trainwrecks" from Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte & Sylvia Plath, to Billie Holliday and Marilyn Monroe, right up to Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Here's the thing: What they have in common is they are remarkable, talented and accomplished women. We look at them and want to believe they must somehow be "flawed." It makes me think of how people believe that poverty is also a "character flaw" and not situ This book is amazing. It gives context - historical context - to the "trainwrecks" from Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte & Sylvia Plath, to Billie Holliday and Marilyn Monroe, right up to Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Here's the thing: What they have in common is they are remarkable, talented and accomplished women. We look at them and want to believe they must somehow be "flawed." It makes me think of how people believe that poverty is also a "character flaw" and not situational or circumstantial. We should just be able to fix what's wrong with us and then we would know success and acceptance! Sady Doyle has done a great job in her historical research. I was fascinated to learn about some of these women whose life stories I had no idea about. She also draws a common thread from the 17th century to the 21st century to show the similarity in how women are viewed - by the media, in the context of the social norms of the day and always through the lens of impossible standards. One of the most interesting chapters is about Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. This book is not an academic endeavor. I believe her research is credible and adds so much to the subject she's trying to illuminate. But at the end of the day, it's meant to be a contemporary work about where we are right now and the women and stories that are making headlines. This book is meant to shift our paradigm - to show us the commonplace hostility toward women through a different plane of the prism. Doyle does a good job with that. I highly recommend the book. In fact, I recommended it to my daughter and she loved it! It is time well invested. We need to consider more thoughtfully the signals we are sending to every generation of girls who become women.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I loved this book and it's a quick read. She writes really well about how misogynist tabloid culture is, and made me think a lot about my own guilty tabloid habit.... BUT she does actually compare people like Paris Hilton to Mary Wollstonecraft. And while this has dramatic and narrative effect, by the time she's comparing former slave/abolitionist Harriet Jacobs, Sylvia Plath, or Marie Antoinette to Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, it's hard to make the analogy stick. I think it's also too easy I loved this book and it's a quick read. She writes really well about how misogynist tabloid culture is, and made me think a lot about my own guilty tabloid habit.... BUT she does actually compare people like Paris Hilton to Mary Wollstonecraft. And while this has dramatic and narrative effect, by the time she's comparing former slave/abolitionist Harriet Jacobs, Sylvia Plath, or Marie Antoinette to Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, it's hard to make the analogy stick. I think it's also too easy to compare and contrast Monica Lewinsky to Hillary Clinton; they aren't just negative images of one another who have both been pilloried in popular press. In some ways this reminded me of the Elizabeth Wurtzel book "Bitch" (I love Elizabeth Wurtzel); but Doyle delves more into the purposeful construction of the 'trainwreck' and digs deep into what she means culturally.

  21. 5 out of 5

    vicky

    Such an interesting subject matter and definitely worth a read. The structure worked really well, portraying the possible crimes a trainwreck can commit in the eyes of society (sex, need, madness, and death), her options (to shut up or to speak up) and her role thereafter (the scapegoat or the revolutionary). All of these are demonstrated by recounting the lives and "crimes" of women in the distant and recent past, from Mary Wollstonecraft and Charlotte Brontë to Marie Antoinette, from Sylvia Pl Such an interesting subject matter and definitely worth a read. The structure worked really well, portraying the possible crimes a trainwreck can commit in the eyes of society (sex, need, madness, and death), her options (to shut up or to speak up) and her role thereafter (the scapegoat or the revolutionary). All of these are demonstrated by recounting the lives and "crimes" of women in the distant and recent past, from Mary Wollstonecraft and Charlotte Brontë to Marie Antoinette, from Sylvia Plath to Hillary Clinton. My favourites were probably Billie Holiday, Harriet Jacobs, and Théroigne de Méricourt. I'm still not sure how to rate it, though. It felt a bit like reading a tabloid and I didn't always enjoy the tone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Interesting and valid points on the treatment (and usually public humiliation) of women who push boundaries. I preferred the historical examples of people who actually accomplished something noteworthy, although Britney Spears' story was extremely interesting as well. Less interesting to me was the discussion of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and the like - although I think it is true and sad that women can get away with much less in the public sphere. Amazing that men can commit actual crimes and Interesting and valid points on the treatment (and usually public humiliation) of women who push boundaries. I preferred the historical examples of people who actually accomplished something noteworthy, although Britney Spears' story was extremely interesting as well. Less interesting to me was the discussion of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and the like - although I think it is true and sad that women can get away with much less in the public sphere. Amazing that men can commit actual crimes and be publicly forgiven (Chris Brown was an example in the book, although I can think of others), but if a woman steps "out of line" in the smallest of ways we berate and belittle her.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    Holy bejesus, did I love this book. Sady Doyle examines the 'trainwreck' phenomenon (think Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, etc) and its various permutations throughout history, including Marie Antoinette, Mary Wollstonecraft, Billie Holiday, and more. Perceptive, empathetic, and thought-provoking -- I would have read it straight through in one sitting if I hadn't had to go to work. If you're a lady; if you know a lady; if you ever felt bad for Britney Spears, do yourself a favor and read this boo Holy bejesus, did I love this book. Sady Doyle examines the 'trainwreck' phenomenon (think Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, etc) and its various permutations throughout history, including Marie Antoinette, Mary Wollstonecraft, Billie Holiday, and more. Perceptive, empathetic, and thought-provoking -- I would have read it straight through in one sitting if I hadn't had to go to work. If you're a lady; if you know a lady; if you ever felt bad for Britney Spears, do yourself a favor and read this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Thoroughly researched with a wide selection of public figure women from past to present. I learned a lot about these women's lives on top of the recurring societal need to punish these women for being successful and then punish them for falling apart. There's a lot of quotable material in her that affirms my position as a feminist but I'll leave just a quick one here, "The internet itself isn't mean, misogyny is mean." Thoroughly researched with a wide selection of public figure women from past to present. I learned a lot about these women's lives on top of the recurring societal need to punish these women for being successful and then punish them for falling apart. There's a lot of quotable material in her that affirms my position as a feminist but I'll leave just a quick one here, "The internet itself isn't mean, misogyny is mean."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This book gave me a lot to think about! It addresses thoroughly the ways in which women in the public eye 'step out of line' and what that means for feminism and femininity. She details some failures of the feminist movement, and points out many examples wherein women are the ones punishing other women for their behavior. I have a newfound respect for Britney Spears, but can't help but wonder what a sequel would have to add on to the Hillary Clinton chapter... This book gave me a lot to think about! It addresses thoroughly the ways in which women in the public eye 'step out of line' and what that means for feminism and femininity. She details some failures of the feminist movement, and points out many examples wherein women are the ones punishing other women for their behavior. I have a newfound respect for Britney Spears, but can't help but wonder what a sequel would have to add on to the Hillary Clinton chapter...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura I.

    4.5 stars, only because it got a tiny bit repetitive towards the end, and I thought the last example could have been done away with. But overall, this was an incredibly well-argued, well-researched, convincing, kind of mind-blowing book that I've been recommending to everyone I know since I was 20 pages in. 4.5 stars, only because it got a tiny bit repetitive towards the end, and I thought the last example could have been done away with. But overall, this was an incredibly well-argued, well-researched, convincing, kind of mind-blowing book that I've been recommending to everyone I know since I was 20 pages in.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    I loved Sady Doyle's blog Tiger Beatdown when it was active, and was delighted when I saw she had a book coming out. The book contains her wonderfully snarky voice providing illuminating examples about how women have always been policed and silenced in much the same way GamerGate and celebrity tabloids do today. I loved Sady Doyle's blog Tiger Beatdown when it was active, and was delighted when I saw she had a book coming out. The book contains her wonderfully snarky voice providing illuminating examples about how women have always been policed and silenced in much the same way GamerGate and celebrity tabloids do today.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Noura

    This book isn’t perfect. In fact it’s far from it and is flawed in more ways than one. However, it’s an important book that deals with a lot of painful truths of what it’s like to be a woman. How far we have come and how much further we still have to go.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Virginia Arthur

    As a reluctant accidental 'trainwreck' myself, the unwanted second girl third kid that "ruined everything" according to my dear beloved siblings, this book cut to my very core so much, I had to put it down and cry. Is it in fact about every woman? Or was it my 8th grade English teacher who sent me home with a different drummer Thoreau poster that I showed to my parents, me touched, they, concerned. "Why did your English teacher give you this?" Shouldn't you know, dear parents, but then again, be As a reluctant accidental 'trainwreck' myself, the unwanted second girl third kid that "ruined everything" according to my dear beloved siblings, this book cut to my very core so much, I had to put it down and cry. Is it in fact about every woman? Or was it my 8th grade English teacher who sent me home with a different drummer Thoreau poster that I showed to my parents, me touched, they, concerned. "Why did your English teacher give you this?" Shouldn't you know, dear parents, but then again, because of #3, all they did was work. Wandering, even within the destroyed landscape, James Taylor, books and writing saved me. In their eyes, I kept trainwrecking' too, defending the neighborhood from bulldozers, fighting with them over James Watt, buying a backpack and hiking boots with my allowance money then going on a "backpacking trip" from the house through the suburban spoils to the county park where my parents picked me up hours later (no camping allowed). Then I entered a male dominated profession, science, field biology. I was off doing field work in the most remote regions of the U.S.- in Alaska, dropped by helicopters and fixed wings, we packed out for weeks with shotguns in case of bears. Getting caught in blizzards in June while looking for pink dandelions. Finally they gave up asking. Trainwreck, black sheep-ess? Even when I was trying to find a publisher for my first novel about an environmentally inclined 'trainwreck', I was told to publish it androgynous-ly or as a man. (Something like what somebody named J.K. Rowling did) because women don't write the kind of novels John Irving does, or Tom Robbins, or Ed Abbey, and my God, what's with the hot babe on the front of your book? Aren't all field biologist ugly and flat-chested with glasses? I was offended but it turned out they weren't saying these things to offend me. They were saying these things to HELP me and it is true--men get read more than women authors. Just how the cookie data crumbles. This book is also about the human primate's endless short-comings, our primitive tribal behaviors to hate, all the easier in a group, online, ridicule, and picking on young women is especially fun and if you pick on them enough, they take over from there, internalizing the scorn and judgement 'hopefully' ending in suicide, or in drug rehab, or prison where we can all 'forgive' them and love them again, their redemption so dearly earned. She focuses on Britney a lot and of course, we all know Hillary didn't make it because of a bunch of white men, same old, same old... There are SO many women that came to mind, women that insist on persisting! I realize there was no way Sady could account for all of them (yes, she hits V. Woolf). She does not include our current Per-sister-in-Chief, scolded like a little girl by Mitch McConnell, Elizabeth "Suck It" Warren. If we look to the classics, there are so many such as the sad case of Lily Bart, the fictitious (or not?) character of Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth". Set in the Gilded Age, Wharton was making a commentary on how shallow and callous society was at that time, of course the victim is a young, innocent, pretty girl (perhaps we should all hope to be born ugly?). Yet another young woman dies trying to make it on her own, has the audacity to show integrity and all that crap-of course she's a victim of gossip, jealously; too naive to understand she is being used as a tool of a fabricated scandal (timeless tip: attractive single women should never befriend married couples by the way; disaster waiting to happen). The take home is--it is so much easier (and fun?) to beat up, beat down the girls. Same old STORY, same old song and dance!! Oh my God! "Check out Miley's abs in new bathing suit" next to "hundreds killed in poison gas attack in Syria". Stop clicking on the shit but you know you won't and when you do, ask yourself why. Stop feeding the monster and click on something else, something else that really matters. Leave your PER-SISTERS alone.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Narrative Muse

    – Trainwreck is absolutely the best read of the year, seriously. – It’s a few months too early to tell for sure, but I think I’m going to commit to this. Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why, by Sady Doyle (Rookie: Yearbook One, The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things) might be my favorite title of 2016. My pick. Yep. I think it’s the best thing I’ve read this whole year. Interested? You should be. First, summon in your brainspace the Modern Trainwr – Trainwreck is absolutely the best read of the year, seriously. – It’s a few months too early to tell for sure, but I think I’m going to commit to this. Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why, by Sady Doyle (Rookie: Yearbook One, The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things) might be my favorite title of 2016. My pick. Yep. I think it’s the best thing I’ve read this whole year. Interested? You should be. First, summon in your brainspace the Modern Trainwreck. I’ll wait. This is probably a young, possibly substance-addicted entertainer in the public eye. Amanda Bynes. Whitney Houston. Amy Winehouse. Miley Cyrus. And the mama of all trainwrecks, the incomparable Britney Spears. Now. Think about the impact these young women have had on our society. We love to hate them. We hate to love them. We vilify them while alive but celebrate them when they’re dead. If you’ve ever wondered idly about this phenomenon - even if you haven’t! - you must read this Trainwreck. I was riveted, not only by Doyle's succinct unpacking of the cultural forces that shaped such figures as Britney and Miley but by her frankly wonderful research as she looks at trainwrecks from the past. That’s right. Marilyn Monroe. Billie Holiday. Mary Wollstonecraft. Even Charlotte Bronte! I became fascinated by the idea that trainwrecks are nothing new. The bit that especially captured my attention was the exploration of Charcot and Freud. These men, experts at analyzing the human psyche, famously zeroed in on female sexuality. After diagnosing female patients with hysteria, Charcot hypnotized and instructed them to perform lewd acts in front of largely male audiences in the name of education. For many, it was titillating. But shameful. That’s right, definitely shameful. Those crazy, sex-starved women, doncha know. The men stared. They couldn’t get enough. Which, if you haven’t put it together already, set a very strong precedent for a lot of the gawking that happens today. When Doyle compares Charcot’s experiments to modern-day paparazzi upskirt photos and the exploitation of poor Britney’s shaved head, I found myself nodding, wanting to tell everyone I know. Tickets sold for Charcot and Freud exhibitions gave way to the cheap thrills of People Magazine and USAToday. It’s. Still. Happening. In fact, if we trace trainwrecks back far enough, we end up in Bedlam (Bethlehem Royal Hospital) in London, England, where the layman could pay ten shillings to casually walk through the space and view the depraved inhabitants. This was the hospital’s way of raising extra funds. It didn’t matter if you were related in any way to the inmates or not. I can appreciate that the author does not make allowances for all of her subjects. Sometimes, cray is just cray. But I believe, as Doyle does, that the hows and whys are always important. If we don’t learn from our own history, then what in the hell are we doing? Trainwreck’s voice and rhythm are charming, conversational. But the research is nothing short of scholarly - and I know. I’ve written a thesis. In fact, I remember thinking several times throughout the experience that Trainwreck would make a decent women’s studies textbook - minus the f-bombs. Look out for language if you’ve got little ones listening. Like I said, it may be too early, but I’m going to go ahead and nominate Trainwreck for A.C.’s Best Book of 2016. We’ll just have to see what the committee thinks. (I’m the committee.) ---------- This review was first published on Narrative Muse, http://narrativemuse.co/books/trainwreck, and was written by A.C. O'Dell. Narrative Muse curates the best books and movies by and about women and non-binary folk on our website http://narrativemuse.co and our social media channels.

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