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Jewcy Interviews: Emily Gould

Emily Gould’s memoir And the Heart Says Whatever is out this month from Free Press. A cautionary tale on the perils of the overshare the book was already making serious news amongst a certain set before it was actually even a book. New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer nabbed a few coveted pages from the proposal and numerous bloggers bragged about their “status galleys”.

The once maligned former Gawker editor described by Nick Denton as “one of the most untrammeled writers the site has ever had” keeps a lower profile these days at least so far as that pertains to putting way too much personal info out to thousands of strangers. She’s still regularly maintaining four blogs here, here, here, and here and hosting episodes of the brilliant literary-themed Cooking The Books over at The Awl.

We met up at a Clinton Hill cafe to talk about the book, the online platforms that made the story possible, the anonymous people that both love and loathe it, and food blogging.

Do you feel there is a quantifiable number you could assign to the type of recognition you’ve gotten from living your personal life in a very public venue?

I know it probably sounds disingenuous saying this and obviously the various ways that I’ve been in public and whether its been exalted or humiliated have enabled me to make a living but that’s really all its done. That shouldn’t be a thing that is so unusual or special.

Without anyone noticing it we’ve entered into a new era and the fact that no one realizes it is key because there are still all these people who are really overtly pursuing fame and recognition for its own sake. Like everyone who vies too be on reality shows for half a second because they think ‘oh, I’m going to make it and then I’ll be set for just having been on TV with Bret Michaels for that two episode arc before he didn’t select me to be his love’ is going to somehow make their life better and inevitably it doesn’t and people just keep just not learning that lesson that it doesn’t make any difference to their lives. Not to be totally college but I think that fame is just a signifier that has become completely disassociated from what it used to signify; just the idea that you can have some kind of renown and it automatically means that money and power would accrue to you. Let’s just be real here.

When you have been doing the publicity for this book-which is much more permanent than a blog post-you’ve found a way to engage more directly with readers and maybe that has deflected some of the criticism that would have come your way.

My whole point is that it’s just a false distinction between me and the public like you just said. I don’t see any difference like I am this exalted speaker and you are the audience and your job is just to shut up and listen. The thing that is totally surprising me is that people come up to me and they are so much younger than I thought they’d be-they’re in high school or in their really early 20s or just getting to college-those are the people that are having really intense connection in a way that I feel like I have a connection with my favorite album. Its like their headphone jams and they have this intense private communion with and they don’t really give a fuck what some 37 year old book critic thinks about it.

What is it that gives people a license too hide behind some wall of virtual anonymity and really just rip into someone else?

When my boyfriend’s book came out he did this great interview with Young Manhattanite and he said something that I think about a lot, which is that “I know exactly what kind of asshole I am, and it’s a different kind of asshole from the one depicted on Gawker, etc.”.  It’s hard to have insight into why people feel they have license to be so awful and also just as hard to see why people also have such really extreme intense positive reactions, which happen in equal measure although the people with the really positive reactions don’t seem to be as vocal on the internet because they are sane and happy. There is all this stuff swirling around about this horrible fear that people have about the amateurization of what used to be a professional field which is writing and also issues that people have about women being honest about things like sex and money where fear just gets transformed into hate.

Interestingly enough I am sure you’ve seen this article from one of your own former colleagues about the duality that both women and bloggers-and by extension, one would assume, women bloggers-face both professionally and in life.

It’s really great! I printed it out so that I could focus on parts of it. Moe [Tkacik] really felt that duality but in my experience the idea of constructing a persona consciously is completely alien and I think that is probably what got me in trouble, psychologically at least. I didn’t really have a protective shield up like ‘oh the people attacking me are attacking a persona they’re not really attacking me’ and maybe they thought that they were attacking a persona and not really me. I’ve never been anything other than unguardedly completely 100% myself in every interaction for better or for worse-often for the worse. I feel that’s what’s bitten me in the ass a million times but it is also hat I have to thank for everything good that’s happened in my career.

You and I are only a year or so apart, roughly in the same peer group, and we are the last generation to remember what life was like before the internet and just total information overload 24/7 but we are also the first generation to grow up with it and know what it was like to be in high school or college and have access to so much.

From what I see people who are younger than us deal with it so much better because it is all they know and they have the rules so much more internalized. We had to learn the way that you learn a second language. I feel, and I think you probably feel this way too, you’re sort of bi-lingual in a way. You have one foot in the culture and you understand the rules of it and more and more there are rules that really don’t apply to what you’re doing with your everyday life. But for people who are teenagers right now that’s the only world they’ll ever know so of course they’ll be able to handle it better. A lot of times I feel I have a lot more in common with people in their early 20s because it is just so second nature to the point where they don’t even have to process it in a conscious way.

Now that this book is done you have a food blog and a recurring series on The Awl called Cooking The Books with other authors. So what’s happening next with that?

I have big plans with my food TV show empire and I just think its getting better and better. I’ve totally lucked into working with the best people who have just made the show that much more tight and professional. Upcoming we have episodes with Will Leitch, Julie Klausner, David Goodwillie who wrote this book American Subversive and Malena Watrous, who wrote this amazing novel about teaching English in Japan and the dissolution of your first real important relationship. I am completely in love with the show and all the people who have been on it and good things are happening, I can’t say anything for sure right now but something good is definitely gonna come of it.

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