I was hoping to find something defensible in Emily Gould's New York Times Magazine cover story, which hit the stands this past Sunday. Why was this my hope? Because -- as I noted in an update to a December 07 Brainiac post about Gould's decision to quit her job as poster girl for Gawker, the snarky Manhattan publishing/celebrity gossip blog -- she's dating novelist and n+1 editor Keith Gessen, whom I consider a friend. And whenever possible, you ought to defend a friend's significant other. Right? I think so, anyway.
Alas, the blogosphere is correct when, in its collective (mean-spirited) wisdom, it condemns Gould's article as narcissistic, cringe-worthy, and -- what's worse -- tedious. I certainly found it tedious, but perhaps that's because I've lived through the "perzine" (personal zine) moment in the Eighties (1984-93), and Gould brings nothing new or exciting to the remorseful-but-still-confessional genre. Like the judges on "American Idol" keep telling the contestants, when covering an old chestnut you've got to make it fresh, "own it."
Speaking of which, did the art director responsible for illustrating Gould's essay cop to its unoriginality? If so, that would explain the strangely derivative portrait photos contributed by Elinor Carucci.
As photo editor and photographer Rachel Hulin notes at her blog, Photoshelter, Carucci's lovely photos of Gould, who in them appears both shy and hungry for attention, bear a striking resemblance to Carucci's shy/attention-seeking self-portraits, taken in 2000 and 2001.
Here's an example. (NB: I've cropped the Carucci self-portrait, because this is a family newspaper. We don't even run photos of nude mannequins in the Globe!)
All the best to Emily Gould, is what I say. She doesn't seem like a bad person, perhaps just a bit sophomoric. I'm guessing that this Times Magazine essay marks her graduation from that particular stage of her professional life. I look forward to seeing what she does next.
PS: If Gessen and Gould are no longer dating, I apologize for spreading misinformation.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
This Emily Gould affair is as tedious (if not more) than the original NYT Magzaine cover piece.
In literary gossip news of a lesser order: as of yesterday, the folks over at Gawker have (seemingly) verified Gessen and Gould's split.
If she really wants to make a splash, have Nan Goldin take the next set of photos!
Hi, Josh. It's not clear to me what the function of your preface here is. Also it's not clear to me why you're piling on. The first essay I ever read by you in Feed was about Jed Purdy, who was then being roundly abused by--well, the sort of people who abuse young people who write things--for callowness, for presumption, for all the usual reasons. And your essay was a great example of *not* piling on. I'll always remember that. As for this... it's a less good example. Your friend still, --Keith
Thanks for the note, Keith. I'm sorry if I've caused you grief. I think the world of you as a person, and as Brainiac readers know, I'm forever singing the praises of your talent as a writer and editor.
Purdy! Reading Purdy was an annoying experience. Unlike Gawker's Emily Gould (as I'll call the "former self" from whom the New Emily Gould has distanced herself), Purdy's writing was devoid of wit and style. However, beneath the mawkish, schoolmarmish, pat-on-the-head-seeking prose, a sympathetic reader could perceive that his take on irony was far more sophisticated and insightful than the professional ironists wanted us to believe. So, yes, I galloped to his defense:
I picked up the Times Magazine expecting that I'd also want to defend Gould. First problem: GEG's writing was witty and stylish, but NEG's writing is tiresome, graceless, un-funny. But perhaps that's the fault of the Magazine. The important thing is the content: I assumed that I'd find ideas worth defending. But the chastened, wised-up NEG doesn't seem to have ideas. For an essay presenting itself as a behind-the-scenes look at how GEG grew up in public and gained hard-won insight into the way things work, it was cringe-inducingly devoid of mature insight.
Who is Emily Gould, and what makes her tick? Since you like her, Keith, I'm willing to believe that she's a terrific person. I'm pretty sure that I'd enjoy meeting her at a party (though I might have to wipe her drink out of my eyes, if she holds grudges). But readers of the Times essay apparently agree with me that NEG (the latest persona of Emily Gould) is an unsympathetic sympathy-seeker, a self-scrutinizer who actually has no self to scrutinize, a compulsive oversharer whose compulsiveness masks an abyss.
I'm not piling on! Just not impressed with NEG. As I hope I made clear (in the last lines of this Brainiac post), I look forward to reading anything by Emily 3.0, the authorial persona who one hopes will appear after NEG has been hung in the closet next to GEG. NEG was a miscalculation, it seems to this loyal GEG fan.
Oh god, Jedediah Purdy! That's like hearing about New Coke.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.
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