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My Life as a Villainess: Essays


My Life as a Villainess: Essays

Fans of Laura Lippman and her work are in for a treat. MY LIFE AS A VILLAINESS is a collection of 16 new and previously published essays that will help readers better understand Lippman both as a writer and as a person.

The book's introduction, “The Accidental Essayist,” revolves around Lippman as a young newspaper reporter and ends with a rhetorical question: “Who the hell do you think you are?” This is directed to anyone who dares to write personal essays, especially a woman, and gives readers a clear sense of what to expect in the ensuing pages.

"MY LIFE AS A VILLAINESS is a fascinating read for anyone who would like to learn more about Laura Lippman and what drives her."

In the interest of time and space, I will provide commentary on six essays that particularly resonated with me. The title “Game of Crones” is a nice play on “Game of Thrones,” but this piece is about Lippman becoming a mother in her early 50s. As a fellow later-in-life parent, I could relate to a lot here, especially when she explains how she responds to those who ask if she is her daughter's grandmother. It ends with the heartfelt reality that Georgia Rae will spend much of her adult life growing up without a parent.

I enjoyed “The Art of Losing Friends and Alienating People" and the playful pun on Dale Carnegie’s book. Writing is often a solitary venture without much room for friendship building while you are working. Lippman muses on why friendships end and how any of them survive a life span. Is social media, which gives us the ability to connect easily with more people than we ever could without it, the same as having real friends? There is a lot of self-deprecating humor here and much to ponder.

“The 31st Stocking” is another deeply personal essay involving Georgia Rae, who was born to parents of two different faiths. Lippman's husband, television producer and writer David Simon, is a fairly strict follower of Judaism and will not allow them to celebrate Christmas, which is in contradiction to how Lippman was raised. Here, she explains the meaning of the 31st stocking and how she can still share it with her daughter during the holiday season.

In “Tweety Bird,” we continue to follow Lippman as a mother in the modern age. For her, this means coming to the realization that you cannot protect the ones who are closest to you from all the bad things that could possibly happen, even though it tears you up inside. The title essay, “My Life as a Villainess,” speaks to her having created villains on the page for seven years before having to face the fact that this was bleeding into her real life and making her a villainess all the time. Female readers will especially love “Men Explain The Wire to Me.” Not only is it a slightly satiric take on gender roles, it also deals with the irony of someone attempting to explain the classic cable series to her --- not knowing that her husband created it. Plenty of playful jabs at men are to be found here.

MY LIFE AS A VILLAINESS is a fascinating read for anyone who would like to learn more about Laura Lippman and what drives her. Although I would love to see her return to her popular Tess Monaghan series, I believe that these essays detail why she may have strayed from these books and the type of fiction we may expect from her in the future.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 7, 2020

My Life as a Villainess: Essays
by Laura Lippman

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2020
  • Genres: Essays, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062997335
  • ISBN-13: 9780062997333