Hot child in the city: more Emily Gould, some Hannah Horvath, and an eighties flashback

None other than the Gray Lady herself has published a book review of Emily Gould’s Friendship. There are obviously good reasons for me to refrain from publishing a metareview of my own (Ukraine, Gaza, taste), but SEO is at stake here, so I really don’t care about any of them.

I’ve learned, for example, that Emily Gould is 32. I’m also 32, so why haven’t I yet taken part in an internationally syndicated flame war? The call to arms must echo most faintly in my heart. It’s probably part of the tragic softening of the citizenry in post-martial societies, or some such chickenhawk enlistment-for-thee-but-not-for-me notion. There’s also the business of my living in a residential motel in Rancho Cordova, certainly a domicile fit for poors, and the matter of Gould being too busy with malicious gossip to work in the fields. A useless eater, it might be said. No, I’m not trying to serve man; I’m just sayin’. Do you think I want someone that whiny and soft joining me for an afternoon of stoop labor? LOL.

I guess we’re just spending our starter lives differently. That isn’t my immature turn of phrase, by the way; it’s the reviewer’s. The review was written by one Katie Arnold-Ratliff, a senior editor at O Magazine, which sounds flaky until one realizes that the chief editor Oprah has running her magazine, Susan Casey, has published a very highly-regarded general-interest book about the history and science of freak ocean waves. No kidding, Oprah employs perhaps the premier chronicler of the gnarly. Still, it’s kind of disconcerting to consider that in the ostensible age of #YOLO, a book reviewer published in one of the world’s premier secular newspapers apparently believes in something resembling reincarnation. Or maybe, as the boomer flatterers at CBS Sunday Morning like to say, a “second act.” Epic procrastination is the name of the game. Just keep fucking up until you’re over the hill and finally have gravity on your side; it’s all good. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll flame you, tomorrow…. Why am I, a chronic failure to launch, trying to extract the mote from my sister’s eye? Tell me: does Emily Gould look like she’s taken up a farming trade or two along the way? And as a brief aside, the ongoing nonpayment for my services rendered at the family winery is a boomer thing; it sure as hell isn’t my idea. I’m nominally supposed to have graduated from law school or some shit by now, but take note that it isn’t my five-year veteran code monkey lawyer friend who’s finally stopped guilting me so much for “wasting” my intellect.

As Dan Quayle said at a United Negro College Fund banquet, “It’s a terrible thing to lose your mind, or not to have a mind is very wasteful. How true that is.” Emily Gould lost hers by her mid-twenties. Saith Arnold-Ratliff: “Gould, 32, was once a blogger for a prominent gossip site, Gawker, whose snark-and-burn ethos came back to very publicly haunt her after she left the company. (In post after post, the skewerer became the skewered, right there on the site she had once called home.) After that, Gould became a sort of professional divulger, writing candidly (online; in various magazines, and in a memoir, ‘And the Heart Says Whatever’) about the flameout, her romantic relationships, and her excessive debt and huge therapy bills, which inspired a lot of people to say a lot of nasty things about her career, relationships and severe need for therapy.”

A couple of things about Radovan Karadzic’s profession: First, I quit psychotherapy, against medical and parental advice, by the age of twenty. If you’re hanging out at light rail stations screaming at people who aren’t there, you might benefit from some psychiatry, but otherwise, you should probably have your SSRI prescriptions written by a general practitioner, who’s less likely to be totally whacked in the head and worked up about sex. Rule of thumb: “Smashed in his knees with a two-by-four! Smashed in his knees with a sledgehammer!”: consider a weekend getaway to Hahneman; “Life is le hard and I’m all blah”: run for the hills the moment any “therapist” gets weird around you. Second, I’d be remiss not to mention that, according to a very reliable family friend who doesn’t say these things without good cause (a retired psych RN, of all things, but he treated San Jose’s most florid psychotics, so he isn’t too distorted from the job), Maria Shriver had a standing play date with her therapist in Palo Alto every weekend. This is probably the most edifying thing I’ve ever heard about the Schwarzeneggers as a family or about psychotherapy.

Also, there was this one smoking hot unit clerk, hotter than I realized ever got hired into that loony bin, who turned out to have carried on an affair with one of the sleazeball social workers or something. If I were Emily Gould, I’d have names, but I’ve only seen this lady’s picture. Still, when I heard about the affair, it was an excellent fuck-yeah-I-know-how-to-read-people moment. #WINNING!

Gould split her twenties between a therapist’s couch and internet comment boards in which strangers often maliciously counseled suicide. No wonder she was a bit off. “Wikipedia rabbit holes” feature prominently as one of Amy’s professional stumbling blocks, but ultimately getting lost in Wikipedia is no more broken than going into a library to do research on Charlemagne and, ooh, there’s a book about trains, and there’s another one about French agriculture, and hot giggity, they have the entire back catalog of National Geographic, which has lots of dirty pictures!!!!!1111! If Mad Men is any indication, the internet isn’t the primal fount of office wankery. The difference today is mainly that everyone’s all down on six parts gin to one part vermouth during business hours, so simulacra of “busyness,” Chaucer’s beloved virtue, have moved away from the three-martini lunch to a discreet flask in the desk or the purse. The fruit of the vine and work of human hands has yet to pass my lips in the course of writing this essay, but you can bet the family moonshine still that New York’s well-t0-do have never been bashful around the sauce. (It’s only because I’m still a bit dehydrated from walking around Sacramento this afternoon. As I said, poors.)

Internet comment threads are a very different, more vicious, sort of beast. Suddenly, you aren’t just putting off your term paper on Charlemagne, which is probably a existentially meaningless pot of shit that the professor doesn’t really want to read, because you’re too busy looking at coffee table b0oks about Pompeian pornographic frescoes or flirting with some sorority chick. (In the Insurance Schmuck’s case, definitely not the former: “I never thought of the library in terms of books.”) Now you’re hanging out at an extended virtual high school reunion with all the asshats whose company you were relieved to lose on graduation day. Every catty bitch who high-hatted you for dressing like Taylor Swift and is now putting herself to bed every evening with a bottle of NyQuil (actually, that was the Insurance Schmuck’s thing in college, until his out-of-control bitch of a girlfriend, the one I sent a cease-and-desist e-mail because she was annoying and upsetting everyone, weaned him with vodka), every punk who gut-punched you in the hallway and is now a toothless wonder manning the pumps at Arco, everyone else who was allowed to run wild because there wasn’t enough adult supervision and what little there was was in the hands of candy-ass administrators: they’re all there. They’re all hanging out in the ether, ready to be the flame that burns your candle if you let your candle feed their flame. They probably aren’t doing their thing on Hall and Oates message boards, either; the Philadelphia Sound just isn’t as compelling as your sex life, no matter how ridiculous the haircuts. Emily Gould is a female equivalent of some incel shut-in wondering why he’s so unhappy when he’s constantly holed up in his parents’ basement posting on r/redpill. This is odd, since Gould is pretty hot, but looks are no defense against the hot mess. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Dagmar Midcap’s time in Atlanta. Sweet Jesus, it ain’t pretty.

It’s disturbing to think that a forty-something spinster who’s definitely a bit too taken with dogs is one of only two night shift personalities at NBC’s San Diego affiliate who don’t look totally wiggity-wack. Midcap looks normal, even if she isn’t, and Jim Laslavic definitely looks normal, but pretty much the rest of the lot look like they’re one set of loose lips away from a really crazy hooker scandal. I’m not talking Deuce Bigelow or Pretty Woman; I’m talking whips and chains and the like that I won’t be able to unsee. It stands to reason that a lot of these on-air types aren’t quite right in the head. According to Blind Gossip, for example, Matt Lauer is a roleplaying furry. I never thought that I’d have a use for that unsettling tidbit, but now I do. “Woof woof stroke my belly” is a shocking thing to hear about him, but only if one forgets that he stayed in character while Paula Deen tearfully begged to be murdered by blunt-force trauma to the head as punishment for racism.

People go batty in that rarefied air, not to mention that a fair number of them probably weren’t quite right in the first place. Gould was on the gossip warpath by the age of twenty-five, an age at which I still held out hope that environmental consulting was my “field.” It’s kind of an HBD downer, but I wonder whether that sort of thing isn’t innate. Gould was probably an incorrigible gossip in high school. And yes, NAWALT: do you realize how many decent women are of a mind to choke a bitch for sowing that kind of discord? It occurs to me that maybe Gould is to feral gossip what Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, the missing Rockefeller, is to bumptious pretensions to royalty. Gerhartsreiter was apparently the kind of chap who, no matter how upright his parents and his hometown, was bound to end up introducing himself to Americans as Clark. That, and murdering the unluckiest ones. Yonder’s a bad seed.

He dunnit in California, too, so my remittances to the Franchise Tax Board are helping to pay for his Hecka East Riverside sleepaway adventure, as well as for Stephanie Lazarus’s dotage as the other kind of Valley Girl.

Katie Arnold-Ratliff advises us that “if you think honest depictions of young women screwing up and surviving are worthwhile and rare, you might enjoy this book.” This is another anecdote suggesting that the state of real peer-to-peer relationships is absolutely pitiful, that we’re cocooning ourselves to death. So, for that matter, is Emily Gould’s entire career. More and more, I’m coming to believe that there was an inflection point around the Gen X/Millennial threshold, circa 1992, beyond which youth culture went completely to shit. And, no, it is not because of the fucking internet. A similar thing happened from the Great Depression to the mid-fifties, powerfully enough that the hoverhand can be seen in old prom photos of the Silents. Care to blame that one on the radio? The midcentury cocooning period, however, offered a couple of distinct sociological advantages over the Millennial style of cocooning. First, it bled into the baby boom, causing many of its victims to grow up with large numbers of siblings, and maybe learn some social skills in the process. Second, it coincided with a period of increasing socioeconomic equality, so a fucker would be liable to get bitchslapped for donning the high hat.

What we have in the new century is a tide of poorly adjusted, insecure youth who can’t cope with relatively minor mistakes and setbacks and who are trying to make their way in a society whose mainstream has been perverted into a massive boiler room scam. Not to put too fine a point on it, this zeitgeist fucking sucks. It figures that there this zeitgeist would produce a large cohort of people so socially isolated that they need to turn to literature for “honest depictions of young women screwing up and surviving.” These seem to be people who don’t have any friends who are comfortable being at all candid with them. All I can think is that if one hangs out with chicks, it shouldn’t take very long until they start opening up about their lives.

Against the odds, I’m apparently on the sociable end of this spectrum. It’s best not to think about the unsociable end, heavy as it is on Facebook musings about “fuck ’em and chuck ’em” and “in words of psy sexy ladies whoop whoop whoop whoop…compliment.” It can get dark, and it can get dry. I have a friend who used to routinely get courtesy rides home from the Sacramento Police, who she said were totally mellow and fly as shit, on account of her habit of biking into Midtown and then reliably getting absolutely shitfaced by closing time. She told me about these courtesy rides, and about the inadvisable divorce that she also effected during her twenties, but she didn’t go full Tracy Clark-Forry defensive and rationalizing about any of it. Somehow she and I, a dry drunk and an incel, managed to cross a threshold of maturity that eludes an alarming number of our peers. There’s something badly wrong with any society in which a novel about the current generation of affluent twenty- and thirty-something city slickers is truly enlightening for its readers, in the sense of telling them something that they really did not know. It’s no wonder that our OODA loops are a wee bit compromised when we can’t figure out how to talk to each other about our lives like normal adults.

Who else exercises the ancient Anglo-Saxon prerogative of fuck ’em and chuck ’em? Amy and Bev. I assume that Bev is somewhat hotter than Fat Bev, the factory clerk in Amy and Isabelle who talked liberally about her own shit. (Why did I read that? Attempting to understand these things is madness.) Hot or not, Emily Gould’s lit chicks just can’t keep the same dudes in their lives for any duration. They come and they go, as she said. Bev follows one dude to Madison (the city, not the thousands of hookers and porn stars) and gets knocked up by another one in a one-night stand, and Amy (the New York one, not the Downeaster MILF’s daughter) loses her boyfriend, her job, and almost her apartment in a sort of self-inflicted country song. Realize that in Duplicate Keys, murdering two dudes wasn’t enough to scare the rest of them away, not even the mild-mannered bearded botanist, although he was flapped a bit by the whole thing.

These n=1 samples may not be probative of anything, but they seem telling. Another thing that Jane Smiley seemed to get right about the eighties is that everyone wasn’t so fucking meta. From Arnold-Ratliff again: “Amy, too, writes of ‘putting her two cents on Twitter…then checking back to see whether anyone had responded to her responses.’ Here, the above primer on Gouldness is handy: This is a woman made and flayed by the internet, writing about a woman also made and flayed by the internet who, though she longs to do something important with her time, spends tons of it glued to the entity that has both made and flayed her.”

Wow Much meta Such confuse. And Narcissus had but a still pond. It’s worrisome that Gould’s readership can presumably relate to this character. I get the feeling that she’s catering to an audience that doesn’t leave the house.

One would have to go to the gnarliest sort of dive bar, or maybe join good old Clark Rockefeller for a stay at Ironwood, to keep such uniformly rotten company in real life. Mentally unstable gossips throwing shit around their zoo enclosures and gazing at their own reflections through a hall of mirrors: behold the end game of self-esteem. It’s ugly.


Girls really doesn’t look so bad after an evening with Emily Gould. The worst one can say about Lena Dunham is that she’s a neurotic exhibitionist freak and maybe a bit frumpy for the part. I love watching pseudo-tradcon concern trolls in fora like Return of Kings work themselves into high dudgeon over that series, as though it’s the apotheosis of modern feminine narcissism. I guess it takes one to know one. The only protagonist on Girls whose narcissism strikes me as remotely maligant is Shosh, but she’s mainly an overtly belligerent high hat. To my surprise, Marnie, the calmest of the bunch, is the least obnoxious a seaboard woman can be in that pastel-and-khaki uniform. Believe me, I know the type, and they’re a scourge. Elijah and Kyril, two of the gay guys who crash the girls’ weekend party, are rather noxious and treacherous, but they’re bit players, in spite of Kyril’s teaching them a song and dance about how ‘You’re breaking my heart, you tear it apart, so fuck you!” It’s classic Hamptons wankery, complete with a train whistle motion, a bit more flaming than the old-line waterfront Guyland traditions, perhaps, but no more edifying of the spirit or useful to society. And by local standards, they’re pretty austere. As Hannah says, “I get the feeling that this is going to be one of the most meaningful weekends of the summer.” Using summer as a noun, not a verb, and observing such a thing as the “weekend” mean only one thing: poors. The kind of people who, contra Ted Kennedy, would probably be prosecuted for drowning their lovers in the harbor after drowning themselves in the sauce.

I don’t have the energy right now to see what the “Dark Enlightenment” crowd has to say about Emily Gould, since I’ve already been up most of the night, but it’s good unclean fun watching them flip their shit over GirlsĀ  on account of its depictions of rampant narcissism and vapidity. The rich thing is that these guys brag about seducing bar skanks for a living in one breath and in the next complain that women these days aren’t dutiful enough, or forcibly domesticated enough, to devote themselves to the kitchen and the nursery. I don’t believe in the slightest that the Gouldian model is a path to genuine self-actualization, but good grief, what sane man would have want to have children with such a woman? And what sane woman would want to have children with a man who has promiscuous sex with blotto amateurs who most likely don’t have the future-time orientation to think of condoms? These are the rare birds (or, to consider the unfortunate truth, probably not so rare) who serve as evidence that not all are called to parenthood. Emily Gould would be a lot more fun in the sack than she’d be in family court. A man would need a judge to apportion things with such a woman; she’s totally cray-cray, likely certifiably borderline.

Maybe such people are good for an occasional trip to the playground with the nieces and nephews. Maybe. They should at least be useful as object lessons for the little ones: “Do your homework, or you’ll end up out of work and telling everybody sob stories like Aunt Emily and Uncle Dariush.”

It’s ideal to seek and find things that transcend this sort of shallowness and vanity: family, home, community. Good luck on the family part when family values are loudly defended by noted twice-divorced slut aficionado (and prescription opiate hound) Rush Limbaugh. This country is led by the barren yelling at breeders yelling right back at the barren. We have a left wing that studiously ignores the benefits of raising families, that doesn’t stop to ponder, as David Clayton-Thomas put it, the meaning of one child born in this world to carry on, and a right wing that accepts moral leadership from a louder version of Rob Ford minus the class.

It’s getting to the point where, if you find a nice Mormon or Catholic couple who sincerely love the virtue of family life instead of yelling at everyone about the virtue, you should cherish them above rubies, and maybe gently nudge them into politics. Likewise with all the single ladies, all the single ladies, at least those who maintain functional relations with their baby daddies. Because we have a problem in these parts with genuine devotion to family life getting in the way of loudness in the public sphere, and loudness in the public sphere getting in the way of anything worthwhile.

Herple derple derp.


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