Monday, July 21, 2008

Jessica Roy and the Literati

I feel like I should post about this, but I'm not even really sure why. By now, most of you have probably read it - and the Gawker/Jezebel/n+1 scene's reaction to it. But to sum up, NYU student, blogger, and want-to-be literati Jessica Roy wrote a piece about her experiences hanging out with the Leon Neyfakh and Keith Gessen crew for New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer.

As a publicist, I'm not part of this scene (although, we all do occasionally overlap. new york is strangely small in that way), but it sums up what I've heard a lot of people say about the industry as a whole. A number of people I've worked with have confessed that they rarely befriend people at their jobs because said co-workers are too pretentious. And it can be true. There are those people that don't have TVs and only listen to NPR and read the Times, and scoff at people like me for watching the Hills. There is a bit of aura of superiority - we publish books after all. We educate people. We produce a product that is meant to make a difference.

Which, if you think about, is kind of ridiculous. Can we really feel superior to the people over at Glamour or Maxim when we're publishing books like "Stuff White People Like" or "lolCats"? It's not as though we're in search of the next great American writer. We're in search of the next great bestseller. And I'm sure Leon or Keith can feel superior to us because, well, Leon covers the industry rather than taking part in it, and Keith runs a "high brow" lit magazine. Oh, and they're writers and highly educated.

The whole thing is just silly. And it's even more silly that we all write about it. That I'm writing about it. That people in New York have become so self-involved with ourselves that we think such things are news-worthy. Emily Gould is not famous. Nor is Keith Gessen. They are famous in a select circle of people, but because of sites like Gawker, the New York media has somehow become convinced that they are. No better than a Julia Allison type fameball, but they can feel superior to her because they've gained their fame for "deep insights" and books, rather than dating columns or talking about celebrities on national TV shows.

I don't really know my whole point with this, except that it sits badly with me. It bothers me that a 20 year-old girl was holding these people up as role-models and for what she wanted to be. Look, I read Jezebel and Gawker as much as the next girl - probaby more. And I find it hilarious. But, I would never wake up in the morning and say that my goal is to be Moe or Tracie. Or Sheila or Choire or Nick Denton. Well, maybe Nick Denton. He does have a really sweet apartment.

It just saddens me that these are the people that college students are looking up to. That these are our mentors. And that, as the book industry, we encourage it by continually publishing their work. People who tumblr and post rants and write pieces about themselves...aren't there better, more-talented, and less self-involved writers out there? Or is that just a contradiction in itself?

--Ladytron

5 comments:

audrey said...

I completely agree. I live in Australia and I have to say that as an outsider looking in, it's rather like watching an extremely stylised reality television series.

..Which is ironic considering how (according to you) stuff like The Hills is so denigrated..

Bella Stander said...

I could understand how Roy could get sick of the incestuous little corner of the literary scene she's been inhabiting. (Note it's just a corner, not the whole world--though at age 20 it feels like the latter.) And I was sympathizing with her need to run away to someplace "real." I was thinking maybe she was going to do community service in, say, Dubuque.

But...Paris? Oh please. Wait till she encounters poseurs puffing on Gauloises and reciting their favorite passages by Robbe-Grillet. In French.

The Daily Intel summation got it right:
"And so Jessica Roy will depart for a semester abroad in Paris in September. She will continue to maintain her blog — which will probably become wildly popular and, upon her return, she'll be owning these godforsaken media parties. Hang in, little one. Paris is a good place to get just jaded enough to come back to this town and run the show."

Anonymous said...

"...people in New York have become so self-involved with ourselves that we think such things are news-worthy. Emily Gould is not famous. Nor is Keith Gessen. They are famous in a select circle of people, but because of sites like Gawker, the New York media has somehow become convinced that they are."

I'm just quoting this because to the extent that these people are "famous" it's because people like you post about them. What is your blog but a much, much lesser Gawker about the publishing industry? Am I missing the point?

slunch intern said...

um, anon, I think you're missing the point. Slunch is making fun of the fact that these people have achieved this weird fame, but even without it, they're also newsworthy in the industry. Gessen runs N+1, Gould sold a book for 6 figures, Crosley was in all the papers. I feel that Slunch is a place for contributors and readers to vent about the industry and its many flaws, and of course, share the latest gossip.

submit to slunch said...

oh, intern! I couldn't have said it better myself. and, it's not 'cause we're paying him/her. I promise, we don't have enough money for that.

-ed