“you spend half your life trying to become larger than life and the other half trying to just live a real life again.”
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(jezebel; previously: 1, 2, among others) /(slate podcasts; previously: 1)
Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »
Ugh, I read the first chunk of these comments on Jezebel before I had to click away because they were making too frustrated and upset at my office.
yeah, i’ll admit that i was initially a little upset with the gertrude stein thread, mostly because there were a lot of haters and nobody came to the defense of my fucking homegirl. for me, though, as is usually true with jezebel comments, the more of them i read, the more the internal logic and flow of the conversation started to take over and just be kind of fascinating — people don’t have conversations like this in real life (at least i don’t) and it’s just interesting to see how they progress and what people choose to reveal and why they would choose to reveal it.
i think the most interesting thing to me was the really strict delineation between the high and the low that the commenters described. for probably 95% of the people who posted in the threads i read to compile these clips, reading fiction exists in this really strict binary — either you read “classics” which are boring and horribly not fun but are “good for you” or you read “trash”/”brain candy” (genre fiction) which is exciting and a lot of fun but not at all “smart” or “good for you.” this was really wild to me, since, in my opinion, most contemporary literary fiction’s MO is to straddle the line between “classics” and “trash,” to be both fun to read and also deep/powerful/enriching/complex. i mean, that idea, of postmodernism breaking the wall between high and low, seems cliche and almost, i don’t know, dated, but to these commenters, it’s like contemporary literary fiction just doesn’t exist and, i mean, we all know women are the main purchasers of fiction and in these threads are women who care enough about books and reading to have multiple page discussions about their reading habits and thoughts on reading — contemporary authors need them to buy their books in order to survive, right? but these women don’t seem to know or care about them!(not that we can take jezebel commenters to represent exactly what the “modern woman” is, of course, like that kind of archetype even exists, but as a sample i think it’s interesting anyway)
Yeah, when this thread was going on on Jezebel I started to enter the fray and try to defend modernist fiction, which is my favorite, but I got too daunted and depressed and didn’t feel like bothering. But I’m glad that I read everything that you posted here, because you are right, it does take an interesting turn.
The strict binary is baffling to me, because I have always sought out fiction that is neither boring nor trashy! It makes me sad to think that all these women have internalized this idea, that literary fiction is dull and designed to make you feel inferior, and “fun” fiction is trashy and should be considered a guilty pleasure. I can’t even fathom how it’s possible to really enjoy reading with that kind of preconception. I often get the impression that Jane Austen is sort of the only generally accepted option for literary enjoyment among Jezebel commenters. And I like Jane Austen and all, but that idea is upsetting and frustrating to me.
my thing is a composite of like four different threads, so i’m kind of shaping the progression by what i select, but if you had read all of the initial ones i think you would feel the same way. and yeah, i just can’t imagine only reading in those two ways — those are exactly the two ways i don’t want to read. it’s kind of tough to deal with.
i wonder if, instead of speaking about women as readers in general, it says more about what’s happened to jezebel in the time since its inception. because i feel like the makeup of both the posts and the audience are a lot different than they were a year ago. not that there aren’t still thought provoking and well-written posts, because there are (mostly from sadie/intern katy), but i feel like things have really changed from, for example, back then moe writing these maybe occasionally rambling or incoherent but almost always complex and interesting (and LONG) things and those were the popular posts that drove discussion. now, the popular posts are like, you know, tracie writes a paragraph caption to some reality TV clip, everybody gets their comment in, ha ha, collect your page views and repeat. or even like hortense, who’s posting on the weekends — she seems like an extremely nice person and she does a great job with comments, but i just don’t get her as a writer, in the sense of having a real voice and a real viewpoint. and yet, instead of being a detriment to its success, all of that’s probably the reason WHY jezebel has been able to grow so much, because in some sense it’s stepped away from encouraging the writerly voice and instead provided these…somewhat blanker canvases on which the commenters can gab/chatter/fight/inscribe/testify. “saturday night socials,” sisters doing it for themselves, etc. but it’s the same thing with gawker — like in the choire/emily/sheila/balk era, they were all part of the collective gawker voice and yet, at the same time, they all had distinct, individual voices. but now, i mean, try to tell hamilton nolan from ryan tate in a blind test! i read gawker every day and i couldn’t do it. i don’t care much for richard lawson but i think the reason that commenters respond to him with such freakish affection is that he does something distinct and individual and with some measure of art to it. that’s becoming rarer and rarer, maybe.
Oh, I definitely agree that it has a lot to do with the gradual evolution of Jezebel. I really enjoyed it back when Moe was writing long, crazy, thought provoking rants. Even Tracie used to write interesting, albeit usually controversial posts. But when they started watering down the posts and stamping out commenter insurrections, the commenter population changed a lot, and now I think the majority of the conversations are plagued by herd mentality, where the only acceptable response is to imitate the attitude of the original post, or of one or two particularly vocal and influential commenters. So it’s often just an echo chamber of, “OMG, nom nom nom, I can haz blah blah blah…”
That kind of thing drove me to spend less time at Jezebel and more time at Gawker, but Gawker’s not much better at this point. I miss the variety of colorful voices and perspectives they used to have, but at least the discussions in the comments section tend to be a little more substantial, amidst all the forced snark. I think Richard does have an entertaining perspective on many topics, and I appreciate having a forum where people can discuss shows like Gossip Girl etc. in a way that’s at least slightly more in depth than usual. But I get the sense that Richard is sort of repressed and self-conscious and maybe even self-loathing. I think that he has sparks of insight and a kooky beauty in his writing, and if only he could figure out how not to be so afraid of himself, it would probably improve dramatically.
yeah, i agree with basically all of that.
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