and the heart says whatever

I made the decision to start blogging (again?) while reading Emily Gould’s And the Heart Says Whatever. Those familiar with Gould’s story might rightly be wondering if I well understood what I had read.

Gould gained notoriety as a rather merciless editor of Gawker, the “daily Manhattan media news and gossip” blog, during its heyday a few years ago. Her co-worker spilled the details of their workplace affair to Page Six magazine in February 2008; she told her side of the story to The New York Times Magazine later that year. An unreformed oversharer, Gould chronicles her twenties in New York City – including her stint at Gawker – in her memoir. Her entire life to this point could easily be characterized as an object lesson in the erosion of privacy in the modern world.

I eagerly read the NYT Magazine cover story when it came out. In fact, I read it a couple of times, and a few more since then. There’s just something compelling about Gould’s style and story. (To be honest, I also read some of her old Gawker posts, her current blog, her ex’s writing, a Vanity Fair article about her post-Gawker relationship, and basically anything else the Internets would give me.) But reading the book, I kept wishing it were more like the article, essentially an 8,000-word blog post.

Criticism of Gould’s book has been extensive. But this Jezebel post clarified for me what she was trying to do: Not be Elizabeth Gilbert. I happen to be a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing (and Gould happens not to be), but that doesn’t make me like Gould’s work any less.

I doubt that I’ll give And the Heart Says Whatever to my cousin, to whom I did give Committed. And I have to admit that I was hoping for more clarity at the end of what are essentially a series of essays, held together by the thinnest of threads. But I want to be Emily Gould no less than I want to be Elizabeth Gilbert, which is to say, not that much. But I identify with both.

After finishing ATHSW, I tweeted, “Sometimes I read a book at the exact right time, and other times, at the exact wrong one. Finishing Emily Gould‘s new book now.” (And she responded, which was kind of thrilling!) I think I meant that the book got me thinking and, perhaps, being too critical of my life thus far. But it made me want to write more; hence, this blog. I do worry about opening myself up to a charge of narcissism, as so many have leveled against Gould, but reading her book made me realize how much of my life I don’t (and haven’t, and want to) process.

Gould’s NYTM article was more like Elizabeth Gilbert than her (Gould’s book). And I think that I wanted her book to be more like the article (and thus, like Elizabeth Gilbert) because I want my own life to be more like Elizabeth Gilbert’s.

I’m 31 years old, and I still don’t have it all figured out. I caught myself wondering today, with unemployment looming and increasing body dismorphia (just two of my current obssessions): Am I still young? Can I really change? Will I become the person I want to be? And who do I want to be, anyway?

One of Gould’s former co-workers tweeted today about ATHSW: “‘Angsty’ is the wrong word. THE HEART SAYS WHATEVER is about figuring out who you are and who you want to be, and that’s hard for everyone.”


Update: I just shelved And the Heart Says Whatever in the memoir section of my personal library, and guess where it now sits? Yup. Next to Eat Pray Love (Gilbert, then Gould).

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