Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dear God . . .

Santino points us toward this train-wreck involving writer Emily Gould. I'm with Sonny all the way here: I rooted for Gould when she was ambushed by Jimmy Kimmel, but now I kind of regret it.

Here's Gould's lede, to a giant NYT Magazine cover piece:

Back in 2006, when I was 24, my life was cozy and safe. I had just been promoted to associate editor at the publishing house where I’d been working since I graduated from college, and I was living with my boyfriend, Henry, and two cats in a grubby but spacious two-bedroom apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I spent most of my free time sitting with Henry in our cheery yellow living room on our stained Ikea couch, watching TV. And almost every day I updated my year-old blog, Emily Magazine, to let a few hundred people know what I was reading and watching and thinking about.

Some of my blog’s readers were my friends in real life, and even the ones who weren’t acted like friends when they posted comments or sent me e-mail. They criticized me sometimes, but kindly, the way you chide someone you know well. Some of them had blogs, too, and I read those and left my own comments. As nerdy and one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important to me. They made me feel like a part of some kind of community, and that made the giant city I lived in seem smaller and more manageable.

The anecdotes I posted on Emily Magazine occasionally featured Henry, whom my readers knew as a lovably bumbling character, a bassist in a fledgling noise-rock band who said unexpectedly insightful things about the contestants on “Project Runway” and then wondered aloud whether we had any snacks. I didn’t write about him often, but when I did, I’d quote his best jokes or tell stories about vacationing with his family.


It gets worse from there, with the use of "I" about 3,000 more times. Also, she tells the world--using nearly 8,000 words--how terrible her life was as a famous blogger. I'm not sure which is the larger driver of narcissism here--Gould's occupation as a blogger or her cultural identity as a New Yorker.

Look, I understand the deep psychological motivations for writing, the most perfect summation of which came from Don Marquis's Archy the cockroach. Archy was an aspiring writer who produced his craft by hurling himself, headfirst, into typewriter keys, creating his works one letter at a time. As Archy lamented, "Expression is the need of my soul."

But there is a difference between expression and exhibitionism. To the extent that blogs encourage the latter--even in thoughtful, professional writers--they are a pernicious force in the culture.

2 comments:

Sonny Bunch said...

Absolutely. The other piece I link to (Josh Stein's NY Post Mag item) is almost as bad...but it's even more entertaining to read for the snarky commentary that accompanies it.

The self-absorption of the New York City blog scene is something to behold. At least in DC we talk about important stuff, like taxes, and politics, and the NY blog scene. Wait, what? ...

Lileks said...

I don't think Archy could have capitalized "Expression." Unless he had company.