"I think you should play a game," wrote a male friend of mine (on IM) this morning. "How many times in one two-sentence graf can Emily Gould use the words I, me, my or mine? I believe I counted nine."
Ever since the news broke that former Gawker editor Emily Gould would be writing the cover story for this weekend's New York Times magazine, he and I had been sharpening our knives. It has never been clear to me how much people outside the media world know, or care, about the personalities of Gawker, but for those of us toiling away in this insular, navel-gazing industry, complaining about Gawker is its own sport. It's fun! Leave us our few pleasures! Yes, it's wrong to cast stones, but Emily Gould keeps handing us all these fine, weighty rocks: There was her appearance on "Larry King Live," where she eye-rolled her way through an interview with guest host Jimmy Kimmel; there was her incomprehensible, embarrassingly overreaching kiss-off on the site itself; there was her Web site, Heartbreak Soup, chock-full of overheated prose; oh, and someone fucked someone else, and there was a big story about it all, and I totally forgot to care. All of which is to say that when I saw the cover of the magazine -- the beautiful, vulnerable, damaged Gould spilled across a disheveled bed, power cord curled like a tourniquet beside her tattooed arm (Elizabeth Wurtzel for the millennial age!) -- I gagged. I gagged on my own gagging.
But this morning, I committed the ultimate betrayal -- at least in the eyes of my friend, who had come to our conversation with his glinty steel at the quick.
"I have a confession to make. I loved that story."
Dammit, I loved Emily Gould's story. Is it "self-indulgent melodrama," as one of the (nearly 1,000, as of this writing) commenters on the NYT site sneered? Absolutely. (By the way, I adore self-indulgent melodrama. My favorite movie is "Magnolia.") Should it have been cut, by at least a thousand words? Yup. Is she annoying, an exhibitionist, a narcissist? She is. But I still found the story compulsively readable, an absorbing sketch of a certain female confessionalist -- the brazen, foolish insistence that everything in her life is fair game, the craving for the spotlight and the withering in its glare. Gould captures the weird love-hate relationship that develops between online writers and their commenters ("They were enemies, articulating my worst fears about my limitations," she writes. "They were the voices in my head") and the eerie modern phenomenon of being a complete shut-in who is conversing online with people all day. By the time she started having panic attacks on the floor of the Gawker bathroom, I was hooked. Dang but I love a good narrative striptease. And this one happened to come not merely with a hot mess of humiliations and heartbreak but also two qualities I found sorely lacking in all the petty bitchery on which Gould made her name -- self-awareness and humility. Gould is not the most elegant or sophisticated writer -- she called her blog "Heartbreak Soup," after all -- but there is something intoxicating about someone speaking the painful truth about her life.
"It was boring," my friend responded.
Or maybe that, too.