Vagablonde is a darkly humorous, rollercoaster ride through the Los Angeles music scene about a woman who wants two things, the first is to live without psychotropic medication, and the second is to experience success as an artist.
... electric ... a chronicle of one person’s bad decisions, but it never descends into a cautionary tale or morality play. Dorn deftly portrays the emptiness and longing for validation that Prue tries to hide under a bon vivant veneer. She also does an excellent job describing the terror that comes with anxiety disorder ... a bleak work of fiction, but Dorn leavens it with some (admittedly dark) humor ... It’s tempting to compare Vagablonde to Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, another quintessentially Californian saga about a woman turning to drugs in an attempt to feel. But Dorn’s firecracker of a novel is all her own.
The subgenre where Vagablonde might be pigeonholed is LGBTQ fiction, and it’s not wrong to be there. But what Dorn most expertly captures is a reckoning with virality on an internet that queer culture helped shape ... Dorn resists heavy-handed narcissism in a '15 minutes of fame' narrative by showing her protagonist’s gut reactions to certain aesthetics: the credits of Call Me By Your Name, the sativa strain Maui Wowie, and the color blue.
There’s a kind of bravery in attaching so many autobiographical elements to such a deliberately alienating character. Though the dialogue can be pitchy, her prose is well attuned to Prue’s outlook: a wry flatness lacerated by flashes of unwelcome insight. Prue may drift far from reality, but Dorn’s descriptions stay grounded ... As Prue’s life becomes increasingly fragmented by fame and blackouts, the narrative occasionally seems to lose its memory, too: Nina calls out Prue’s job as a defense attorney in a piece for Pitchfork but later expresses surprise that she’s a practicing lawyer, for instance. Still, such blips scarcely disrupt Vagablonde’s sheer consumability, its pages scrolling by like so many miles of Instagram feed. Vagablonde should be an ideal feel-bad read for the summer of 2020. Swig it down beside an empty swimming pool.