Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lux meets Emily Gould


Emily Gould is a New York based writer, famed blogger and big Fleetwood Mac fan. I'm really happy to have her as my first interview - here to discuss her new memoir 'And the Heart Says Whatever' (Free Press)
Lux: Have you got much of a readership in the UK?

Emily: Huh! I dunno. I think my agent would like me to make it seem like I have a huge one so she can sell the UK rights to my book, which are still available. (Call up her publishers! I bet you could get them cheap!) As obsessive as I am about monitoring the ripples generated by my online presence I hardly ever go into the department of my blog stats that tells me where people are coming from, in part because it takes 30 seconds to load and I don't have that kind of patience. Potentially my UK readership is huge. Hello, devoted UK fans! Thank you for sending me all the care packages full of shrimp-flavored crisps etc. Keep them coming.

Lux: I’m pretty awful at synopzing books. I told my friend I was doing this interview and he asked me what your book was like? I said something like “It’s like an explicit My So-Called Life for twenty something’s...its good, buy it on Amazon

Emily: Yeah, there are some very Angela Chase-y moments. Here is an Angela Chase quote that seems very profound to me at this moment: "And, I mean, this whole thing with yearbook - it's like, everybody's in this big hurry to make this book, to supposedly remember what happened. Because if you made a book of what really happened, it'd be a really upsetting book."

Lux: I heard your interview on Yit Lid where you admitted to being really good at being mean. This is true. The book awoke all these inner anxieties in me as to how I’m perceived by the opposite sex You just seem simply gifted at deconstructing people…boys especially and breaking them down into eloquent often non flattering summations. Maybe it's just because I’m a guy I got defensive about it...somehow I felt some allegiance to indie boys featured in the book like Zack or Joseph - I wanted them to work out.  

Emily: Really? I mean, I understand feeling protective about "Joseph," but "Zack" I think comes across really well! I mean, I sent him a galley and never heard back from him, but I can't imagine that he's too upset. I basically say that he's great at sex and fun to talk to. It's like an advertisement for hooking up with him! I guess I call him skinny, too, but I don't think it comes across as a dis. I dunno, I have totally given up on trying to parse or explain or have feelings about people's emotional reactions to my book. I keep inflicting these snide blog "reviews" on myself where people with my-special-opinion blogs (which, you'd think those would be my people, seeing as how I am one of them, but I guess it's a case of too-much-like-me-to-like-me syndrome?) talk about how dispassionate and uncaring and unaffected and bland and boring my writing is, and how soulless I must be not to have feelings about the things I describe. I know you should never say stuff like this as a writer, but I kind of think that those people should be banned from reading books if they're really that bad at it. I want to say to these people, like, sorry I didn't connect every single dot for you, dumbass. Go read Nicholas Sparks if you want to be explicitly told how to feel. Dumbass! Rrrarrrgh! Ha, clearly I have totally given up on having feelings about this.  

Lux: There was a description that really stayed with me where after kissing a boyfriend you described his mouth and taste “the inside of his mouth tastes like he’s just flossed blood and mint and coffee staleness”. With that you pretty much captured that awful feeling when you’re kissing someone and you’ve just realised you’re no longer into it.

Emily: If you can critique or describe a kiss to yourself while it's happening that means you're not into it, yeah. :(

Lux: I found “And the Heart Says” really affecting. I sensed a lot of regret and also the greatest warmth from that piece. Joseph sounded like ‘the one’.

Emily: Shit, really? Eh. I don't think so. We were unfortunate in falling in love with each other when we were so young and had no idea who we were. I thought I would never love anyone like that again. I guess I never will, and no one will ever love that young version of me. But I dunno if that is a bad thing, necessarily, because my whole understanding of the concept of "love" is different now. And I don't know if there is such a thing as "the one," though of course I am a huge romantic and want to believe there could be. I look back on that relationship and see a million boneheaded mistakes I made, fights I escalated, decisions that pushed us further and further apart. Cheating was the least of it. I was a monster; we both were. If nothing else, in the future I'll know to bail before things get to a point where you're just torturing each other daily because you're both too scared to leave.  

Lux: The title is taken from a Stevie Nicks cover. You’re a big Fleetwood Mac fan too! This is good opportunity to geek out cause my indie friends don’t ‘get’ my obsession and just see Fleetwood as a cheesy bunch of hippies who did a whole bunch of coke. When did you discover them?

Emily: When I was around 16 was the historic reunion of the Rumours-era line-up of F. Mac and The Dance and the tour and the Vh1 Behind the Music, all of which were hugely influential. Also I grew up in Silver Spring Maryland which is not, as far as I know, named for the song Silver Springs or vice versa, but it always made me feel like I had some kind of fated connection to the band.  

Emily: Tusk or Rumours?  

Emily: Tusk, DUH.  

Lux: I’d have to go for Tusk. I know the album was Lindsey’s baby and the rest of the band were left hanging around the studio bored while he experimented with new sounds. But for me Stevie’s and Christine’s songs really make that record for me, I don’t think Lindsey’s efforts come close to say Sara, Brown Eyes or Storms.  

Emily: Have you seen the documentary? Oh my god. Look at the parts of it that are available on YouTube if not. They all come across and so crazy and addled and insane, and then they get onstage and completely kill it every time. They're so professional. There's a great studio scene where Mick is just standing there in this quasi-autistic way, sloshing his drink around in time to the beat, looking deeply contemplative. There's also a scene where Stevie practices ballet. I find myself incapable of describing the depth of positive feeling this evokes in me with words. I mean, your friends are right about F Mac but that's PART OF WHY THEY ARE SO AMAZING.  

Lux: On the subject of blogging you’ve said when you go to post personal entries on you’re blog you really “Think before you publish” and that you have rules for yourself. What kind of things do you consider before you post?  

Emily: I don't want anyone who's reading about themselves on my blog -- and I try to imagine everyone I write about eventually reading what I've written, no matter how improbable it is that they actually will -- to feel bad unless it is my specific INTENT to make them feel bad, in which case, I hope they feel really bad! And, I dunno, just the idea that no one should be made to feel powerless. I try to make sure that when I turn my artillery on myself there is not collateral damage.

 Lux: Recently I had a really strange night and practically the second the craziness was over and I was on the train home I thought ‘that would make a good piece for my blog!’ I was shocked at how quickly that came to me. Sadly at the centre of the story is a friend acting stupid and she’d come across pretty badly for me if I was to tell it honestly so I can’t publish it.  

Emily: I guess you have to write a novel!  

Lux: I’ve heard you use the term ‘what I had for breakfast blog’ describing the type of blogger who posts every inane detail of their day to day life. This made me laugh cause I had a discussion recently where a friend and I categorised all archetypes of blogs like:  
The wannabe fashionista blog Look at this cool bracelet I found *insert ASOS link here* Today I was felling eclectic so I mixed an H&M top with a Top Shop Skirt *Insert photo of an average outfit here* OMG I WANT THESE SHOES *insert jpeg from new Lady Gaga video here*  
The cool vintage photo collage blogs They usually include photos of skinny white girls, photos of Christiane F, Skulls, biker gangs, Sasha Grey and screen captions from obscure subtitled movie with captions like ‘Life is like weird’ or ‘She’s dead…wanna get a cheeseburger?’  
The my life is awesome blog Usually written by socialites or bands whose lives are so action packed and exciting that it makes you’re own life feel dull and boring by comparison. An average post would be: Today I was in NY playing a show. I bumped into my friends from other cool bands, we hung out and partied till 8am then I flew back to London, played this award show and got given a bunch of free Ray Bans after the show. Tomorrow I pack for South by Southwest. What do you think? Did I miss any?  

Emily: One weird trend I have noticed is blogs that borrow a lot of stylistic tics but maybe not the depth or intelligence or substance of Tao Lin's blog and/or Hipster Runoff. Like: "scare quotes" around "everything" and lots of talk about "authenticity" (those are real quotes, not scare) and a kind of ultra-detached prose. It's almost like parody but not. It's weird. It kind of reminds me of, when I was in college I briefly dated (am tempted to write "dated") this guy in my creative writing class whose writing I thought was SO HILARIOUS AND UNIQUE and then I moved to New York and read one issue of Vice magazine and was like "Ohhhhh, shit, I was duped! I was so retarded to have sex with that lifestyle-plagiarist." People! Find your own voices/ways of being cool, the end.

Lux: You were for a time co-editor of I first became aware of Gawker back in 2003. I had seen a picture of Leigh Lezark on Ultragrrrls blog – which I think was the first blog I’d ever seen actually. Anyway I developed a crush on Leigh and kept checking back on the Misshapes events photos every week to see if she’d make an appearance. Then I found her she featured pretty regularly on Gawker and got the nickname Princess Cold Stare - which is pretty genius, do you know who coined that?

Emily: I dunno, I would Google and find out whose byline is one the first post that uses "Princess Coldstare" except I would like to keep those 2 minutes of my life. If I had to guess, I'd think it was Jessica Coen, who is way better at being mean than I could ever dream of being.  

Lux: During your time working there you had to spend a lot of time criticizing and poking fun at people. I think you could easily step into the realm of darkside. Did you find it hard to switch that cruel commentary outside of work?  

Emily: I dunno where that anger came from to be honest. A lot of the time when people write like that it's because they feel like there's some citadel of privilege they're not being permitted into. One of the things I realized during my year of working at Gawker is that: sure, a citadel of privilege exists, but it is mostly maintained by the legions of people imagining it all the time, and being so mad at it. If you focus your energies on creating something rather than tearing down other people's creations, it either begins to seem pointless to have access to whatever you'd previously imagined was privilege -- either that, or you're granted access to it and then you're like "Huh, citadel of privilege, nice place you got here," and then you leave because it's boring.

Lux: Like I imagine like the people who write Vice Magazine's "do’s and don’ts" must become the most venomous scathing hate machines. I can see them walking down the street imagining shitty captions for everyone as they pass by.  

Emily: Also perverted comments that are appreciative in a trademark pervy way, like "I want to take you home and marry you and lick mustard off your tits and then divorce you and cry and masturbate over this photo every day for the rest of my life! Yes!" and it's just some girl in Ray-Bans with nice boobs and you're not really sure where the enthusiasm is coming from.

Lux: You mention in your book that you professionally exploited and alienated every "connection" you ever had. I’m guessing people became immediately distrusting once they found out who you were writing for. Can you talk about some of the bridges you’ve burnt through you’re job?  

Emily: I don't want to reburn any bridge that might only be partly burned. In general though I haven't been as politically savvy as I ought to have been about my career. I'm always writing about how X magazine or website is venal and corrupt and Bad for Women, then when I have a book to promote it's like "Heyyyyyy, editor at X magazine! Er! Bygones?" and if I'm lucky people are not as insane of grudge-holders as I am.

Lux: You resigned from 2007 from Gawker where have you been working since then?  

Emily: Nowhere. I make about $50 a week teaching yoga, sometimes more, often less. I should probably get a job or sell another book sometime in the next couple of months, to be honest, or else I might have to move back in with my parents. I got $200K for my last book, which is a lot, except that I live in New York City and your agent gets 15% and the IRS gets 1/4, and I decided it would be smart to have health insurance which is now seeming utterly retarded, actually -- so I didn't get to save much of it. I still ought to have saved more. Hindsight. Please watch for me to write something very sellouty very soon.  

Lux: Since your blog these days is pretty much cats, food and books I guess it was a pretty natural for your show Cooking The Books to cook and talk literature with your cat making cameo appearances. How do you choose your authors?

Emily: Either they are people who approach me and ask to be on the show or people whose books I loved who I beg to be on the show.

Lux: Who and why would be your dream guest?  

Emily: Jennifer Egan is coming on soon. I love all her novels so this is a total dream come true. Her new book A Visit From The Good Squad is amazing. I have no idea what we'll cook.

Lux: I saw your piece In Defence of Facebook that got me thinking about Facebook privacy settings. Do you remember that time when Facebook changed its privacy policy? For a few days (until everyone realised they needed to reset their privacy settings) every profile was public. It was insane. It was like looting during a riot. Everyone I know took that opportunity stalk ex’s profiles or hot friends of friends you wanted to look in on. Sadly since Facebook changed its privacy status it’s so much harder to stalk people. I keep having to find new and inventive ways to be a creep. Finally you might need to disregard your rules on online sharing. Mine for yours: The most epic/desperate facebook stalk you’ve done. My most tragic story goes like this...I had a tempestuous relationship with someone and we had since stopped speaking. I was still obsessed with her and wanted to see her page, but her profile was on maximum privacy settings. I went through all her friends pages to try and find someone who a) had an open profile b) and had commented on her pictures. NOTE: If someone has an open profile anything they comment on is then open to browse, even if that person’s page is set to private. I eventually found that her brother in law had commented on one of her profile photos so I got to see her profile photos. She looked pretty damn fine. FML.  

Emily: I love looking at people's wedding photos on Facebook, especially if they are hippies and have hippie-ish weddings. One of my fantasies is to trick all my friends into thinking I'm having an insane baroque destination traditional wedding and then when they've all had a couple of days to hate me and get upset I'll be like April Fools, I am getting married at the courthouse and then inviting you all to a party in the backyard of a bar that's catered with awesome food. Not that I think about my incredibly hypothetical wedding, ho-hum.  

And the Heart Says Whatever is out now Listen to a reading here (she's number 27) 
Read Emily's blog here

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Isn't it a pity

Yesterday I went to a show. I got to the door and a girl I used to know was selling the tickets. I said an awkward ‘hi’ and went to watch the show. Back story is about a year ago we used to hang out a lot. Then things got weird between us. I still think about her. After the band played I went outside to ring my friend to see if she was still in the area. Whilst on the phone the friend selling tickets stepped out for a cigarette. She walked across the road lit her cigarette and began talking to a friend. I could see her look over at me as I was on the phone. After the call I hung around outside the venue, her still across the road. I dont know why I was doing this. I must have been standing around for 15-20mins. I looked over to her and it looked like she was making out with the guy she had been talking to but they were just hugging. I went for a walk around the block. I was feeling really sad. We had made out one time, this caused the rift. I often wondered was it a drunken mistake on her part or did she really have feelings for me? I stood around near this block of flats for a while. I saw a cat staring at me from a window so I took a photo. As I began to walk back to the club I caught my reflection in a window and starred at my face. I’m not that good looking. This girl was beautiful. This probably was a mistake. Back at the club I remembered I had a bottle of whiskey in my pocket. I ordered a coke from the bar and poured in the whisky. I sat down by myself as people partied around me. I thought she might come back in and talk to me. I’d missed my last train so I was determined on riding it out, whatever this was. I was making some weird protest by sitting in the club by myself. I didn’t speak to anyone. I just stared into space. I Thought about what I wanted to say to her. After an hour she still hadn’t come back inside. I wondered was she making a protest herself by not wanting to be in the same room as me. I decided I was being juvenile. I should confront her and talk. I walked out to go meet her but she wasnt there. I went back in and asked her friend who was selling tickets with her earlier where she was. She'd left an hour ago to go to another party.