In preparation for our next book “Friendship” by Emily Gould, here is a little review session on the much hated author:
Julie Klausner’s recent interview with Emily Gould, in which Gould was totally charming, made me want to understand why everyone hates Emily Gould for exposing herself on the internet. I read her big cover piece in The New York Times Magazine in which she chronicles her time at Gawker and rise to internet fame, I read her article on how she blew through her $200,000 advance on her first book, I read several of the hate pieces on her, and I have gotten on the list for her new novel Friendship.
Most people (commenters) think she is narcissitic and without substance. Actual literary and cultural critics pile on the qualifications before they call her shallow. “Of course young women should be able to write about the minutia of their lives and feelings.” “Men used to do it all the time and we rewarded them for it . . . BUT . .” And then the critiques are basically the same as the commenters: she writes about a very narrow experience, she has no sense of a world outside of herself, and her problems are boring.
As for the NYTM article, if you haven’t read it since it was published in 2008, it is an interesting piece to re-read. Her life does sound a bit Hannah Horvath-ish in that she keeps doing things she regrets and learns little from these experiences. Many of her mistakes include publishing personal things about loved ones on the internet. My pet theory is that the real reason people were repulsed by her is that she was describing a professional blogger’s lifestyle, which sounded very weird in 2008. Who knew a professional blogger in 2008? Who knows a professional blogger now? Very few people. But the truth is that even less people know a young published print writer like Hannah Horvath either. Hannah Horvath/Lena Dunham (who I think of the celebrated version of Emily Gould) is much more appealing because she still falls into the romantic vision of a young artist who wants to write BOOKS, not blogs, Youtube videos or “content” for Buzzfeed.
Dunham smartly created a modern portrait of young womanhood that still draws on old fashioned tropes of artistry. But God I would love to watch a Lena Dunham youtube channel.
Despite the vitriolic claims that Gould’s description of working for Gawker was a narrow view of the world, it is simply a narrow view of the world that we have not romanticized yet.
But the real issue is whether there is something boring or unseemly about the kind of unstructured way Gould expresses her feelings, a style that feels eerily familiar to any lady of habit who keeps a journal, a blog, or simply shares too much about their exercise routine at dinner parties. Gould raises great questions about whether lady issues are less important than manly existential problems; and secondarily, do these lady feelings require framing that signals their narrowness while also making connections to more universal experiences?
A want to say no. I want to say all lady feelings deserve a New York Times Magazine cover story as much as any other topic. But I think the great lady feelings sharers of our day–Lena Dunham, Maria Bamford, Taylor Swift–all are great because they don’t sound “bloggy” or narrow at all. Their work is on some level fictionalized, and broadened, through the development of alter egos.
So I look forward to Gould’s novel, because it is a novel and not a memoir and thus through the simple process of fictionalizing her experiences I think she might find more translatable ideas. Or maybe the novel will finally make us feel okay about Emily Gould’s bloggyness. Let’s see!