You may recall Emily Gould from a few years ago, although it’s probably to your credit if you don’t. Gould flew into the national conversation on a stiff idiot wind, joined some other foul birds in shitting all over the joint, and then flew off to make room for the next flock of idiots. Her particular brand of nonsense was professional gossiping, a trade that her enemies managed to turn against her on fairly short order, precipitating an epic quarter-life meltdown that, in classic Gouldian fashion, was live-streamed for make benefit glorious nation of Bougiekistan. What was sauce for the geese pecked at by Gould was sauce for the pecker herself, and by sauce, I mean gooseshit. Go out in the park, step in some, and smear it on some poor bastard’s face to start a fight, and you’ll get a good idea of Emily Gould’s preferred style of discourse.
Yup. If you had a sense of decency, that’s how gross the Gould fiasco was. Her conception of journalism was the forcible Cleveland Steamer. The episode was a neat little window into the decline of the reporter’s craft, to be sure. It was the kind of circus where you might as well pour yourself a White Russian, and be sure to use the grownup’s Oktoberfest stein, because you’ll need it by the end.
Anyway, Emily Gould is back. She just had a semiautobiographical novel published, and Maureen Corrigan has reviewed it. Time out: why? There’d be nothing amiss about my reviewing a novel by such a horrid gossip turned pathetic victim of gossip; Emily Gould isn’t in a position to materially coarsen an essay that I just opened with an entire paragraph about gooseshit. But I’m not one of Terry Gross’s regular arts contributors. I’ve listened to dozens, maybe hundreds, of Corrigan’s book reviews. Hearing her review the debut novel of a notorious bottomfeeding Gawker alumna is like hearing David Bianculli review Two and a Half Men. The outward tone of the review may be as elevated as ever, but the substance is just, just, I can’t even. It’s one of those things where you’re expecting to hear something about the nihilistic cynicism of Walter White, but instead you hear a calm Yankee Brahmin monologue about how Jake just passed gas again. It’s like, uhh, this lady spent her twenties basically in a state of war with other people over their private lives, and the balance of that decade being publicly humiliated, by other people if not by herself, and now she’s an eminent contributor to the belles lettres? Cracka say what?
I haven’t read anything by Gould in years, including her new novel, because everything I’ve heard about her is so yucky. So maybe her novel is good reading, and I don’t doubt that it’s a massive shit show, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it ain’t Duplicate Keys. Actually, it’s clear that the social milieu Gould describes is the polar opposite of Duplicate Keys, and I don’t mean just in the sense of no one committing double murder. Jane Smiley’s characters had friends of the opposite sex; Gould’s characters (one guess as to who “Amy” represents) believe, as Corrigan puts it, that “men are louses.” (I would have assumed that we’re lice. But maybe not.)
Classy chicks. If nothing else, this novel sounds like a disturbing look at the destructive sexual and social atomization of American society. Hear that, boys? We’re a bunch of useless pricks. If you wonder why so many of us are lounging around the apartment watching Sportscenter in our PJ’s, don’t. All the single ladies, all the single ladies, they aren’t inviting us anywhere, oh oh oh, apparently because we like it but we won’t put a ring on it. “But girlfriends are forever.” Pass me an airsickness bag, sweetheart. This attitude isn’t indisputably antisocial, but it’s about as far away as you can get from prosocial. Another thing: if these women are interested in having biological children, the witching hour is nigh, so they might want to fish or cut bait. Thus saith the 31-year-old childless bachelor; yeah, glass houses and all that. But in Corrigan’s telling, Amy effectively ditches the pregnant girl. Or maybe it’s the other way around; Bev would have cause. We were friends once, but oops, so baby, baby, baby, no. Giggity giggity get outta my life girl.
These ladies are maturing, if it can be called that, into a weirdly childish social life. Men are explicitly bullshit, childrearing is apparently bullshit (the cool girls ditch you for taking that path), and it doesn’t sound like these women have any interest in filial piety to the elders in their families or in helping care for their nieces and nephews. One might expect them to interested in careers, but they don’t get the feeling that careers are interested in them, so they return the favor.
But girlfriends. Go figure that Gould called her novel Friendship. This decision sounds a lot like naming one’s band “War” and then writing cloyingly earnest songs about everybody getting along, Rodney King-style, in the national low rider.
Wow Much disingenuous Such sappy.
That, friends, is what’s wrong with rich girls in the big city today. At least that’s a big part of it. I’ve seen it writ small, and it’s pathetic. The zeitgeist of more than a few of these chicks is fuck the dudes, let’s be shallow and have no future-time orientation. And they’re all up in each other’s business. If that sounded dirty, maybe it is. I’ve seen some weird homoerotic behavior in the Philadelphia club scene, including among the guys, and I’ve never frequented the gay bars. With luck (and there’s no assurance that you’ll have any), there will be one borderline-slutty chick (straight-up slutty is cool, too) who’s drunk or self-confident enough or a bit of both to rub up on all the dudes and keep our scene from turning into an intractable sausage fest. It’s probably another Pareto distribution, with twenty percent of the sluts being eighty percent of the slutty (on second thought, it’s probably more than eighty percent), which presumably means that eight percent of the girls hold the key to sixty-four percent of the summer lovin’. And what I really mean by this is, to invert Robin Thicke, “what rhymes with fuck me?”
It can be a bleak scene. It’s one of the reasons why, even though I’m vaguely opposed to teetotalism on principle, teetotaler chicks who like to get frisky are straight-up bitchin’. To channel #Thicke again, their lines aren’t blurred. They aren’t rubbing up on strange dudes just because they downed their chameleon in a bottle. They aren’t gaslighting themselves, and that’s cool by me.
Corrigan has a weird, backwards reference to Emily Gould reclaiming “Gen-X feminist solidarity” from Katie Couric’s antediluvian chauvinistic excitement to become “Mrs. John Molner.” What’s weird about this is that there’s nothing Gen-X about Emily Gould. The narcissism, the sniping, the gossiping, the boundary problems, the exhibitionism, the discomfort with men: it’s all archetypally Millennial. Gen X were the ones who were interested in the dudes. They were the socially well-adjusted ones.
One of the few cliques I know that isn’t mixed up with this juvenile drama queen narcissism and that manages to maintain lasting mixed-sex friendships is a group of ocean lifeguards and their hangers-on in Orange County. By most measures, this crowd is not caught in a social time warp; the main exception is that they aren’t petty dipshits with terrible boundaries who ditch opposite-sex friends like Italy ditches prime ministers. The reason why, I think, is that they’ve either dealt with heavy shit at work or know that they may have to deal with heavy shit. I don’t mean Gouldian heavy shit like ewwww Billy Joe slept with Bobby Sue’s sister hey stop flaming me you fucking bitch; I mean heavy shit like recovering the bodies of drowning victims and informing their parents. They don’t dwell on it too much, but it’s there. They know on some level that life’s too precious to be a petty dipshit. That’s probably why the women among them seem too mature and introspective for all-men-are-dogs feminism.
But hey, Emily Gould could be worse. She could have written her novel about young people today in Japan. At least nobody in her world is downloading girlfriend-san from the ether. Isn’t it a great country, America.