Friday, July 18, 2008

About That Elephant in the Room

Ever since this article came out, I've been thinking a lot about the internet and immediacy and honesty and hurting people and motives and all kinds of shit that I wish I could not think about, but have to, because after all I did put myself in this situation. That said, I want to clarify a few things.

First, I want to discuss why I chose New York Magazine as my platform. A few people have brought up that it feels wrong for me to post it there instead of on J&J, like I'm trying to foist myself onto the same world I'm condemning. I promise you, that's not the case, and if that is what happens, it was never, ever my intention. I will do everything possible to avoid that world: not the media world as a whole, but the specific elitist circle that I so decried in my article.

Anyway, last Sunday after the party, I wrote this vague emo post. At that point, I was really grappling with whether or not I should actually write about my experience. It felt, to me, like something that needed to be addressed: people were whispering about it and alluding to it, but no one wanted to say anything. I'm not insisting that I was the right person to have done this, but I believed that if I was feeling this way, it was important for me to talk about it. Because that's what we do here on J&J, we talk about stuff, and this was the kind of stuff that kept me up at night. It also felt hypocritical to champion honesty and then conceal something so important to me just because other people might not like what I had to say. If this was four months ago, when J&J was read almost solely by our close friends, I would have posted my reaction in a heartbeat. Ultimately, it felt wrong to censor myself and how I was feeling because I was afraid of people's reactions.

The more I thought about it, the more I knew I needed to write something, so I also typed up a four page description of my encounter and showed it to some of my friends, who all basically came to the same conclusion: YOU NEED TO POST THIS. That's when I began working on editing my original version to post on J&J.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of the editors from The Daily Intel e-mailed me about my aforementioned vague post and asked if I wanted to write something about it for them. Since I had already decided to post it on J&J, and I knew that The Daily Intel had a much broader readership, I decided to post it with them instead. Furthermore, let's be real here: I read New York Magazine multiple times a day and it has been a writing inspiration for me in the past. How could I, in good conscience, turn down an opportunity to write an article I wanted to write anyway for one of my favorite publications? Of course I jumped at the opportunity. I want to be a writer after all.

But really, it was nothing sinister: I did not shop around stories or e-mail news sources asking them if they wanted a write-up of the party. It was something highly personal for me. That said, if I could have gotten my story across without naming names I completely would have. As I’ve stressed before in earlier posts, I really don’t like hurting people: anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that my main goal in life is just to be honest. If my story about the literati, and my disillusionment, could have been released without implicating people, I would have done that in a second. Unfortunately, my disillusionment was rooted in their names, and so I could not tell the truth without naming them.

The trouble with honesty is that someone is usually hurt by it. I hurt those that I talked about in my article, and those who had unnecessarily vitriolic reactions to my article hurt me. No matter how many positive e-mails or comments I read on the subject, it’s the negative ones that reverberate most in my head. But I can’t condemn or get angry at people for reacting negatively, as long as they were reacting honestly. The internet lends itself to unstoppable immediacy. In less than 24 hours I have gone from Girl With a Blog to Girl on the Front Page of New York Magazine Talking Shit About Important People. It was a remarkable evolution that occurred in a very short amount of time. I haven’t even had time to parse how I feel about things yet, because I’m just very overwhelmed at this point. I mean, I was expecting a shitstorm, but GODDAMN. I’m just a 20 year old student trying to find my way: I fully admit that I’m naive and confused and have a lot to learn. But part of learning is figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and sometimes you just have to take huge risks in order to figure that out.

This is not something I wrote to gain recognition. It was the truth, my truth, based on my personal experiences. It just so happened that other people were interested in that truth, and as an aspiring writer, how could I turn them down? Had I known that it was going to blow up the way it did, perhaps I would have entertained reservations about the things I wrote. But overall, I take full responsibility for everything I said in that article: it was an emotional and highly visceral reaction to an experience I had, and the point of it was not to bash other people, but instead to explain how I had been disillusioned and why I felt it was necessary to take a break from New York. (Which, might I add, I had already decided to do, but had been fretting over - this experience seemed to validate my decision) I fully acknowledge that this is only one side of the story: I wrote about what I saw and perceived without any context, which is what makes this such a personal account for me. Talk to anyone else at the party and their story may be completely different, but I guess that's the blessing (and curse) of blogging and personal writing.

One of the commenters on NY Mag pointed out that it’s a very nostalgic piece that asks writers and bloggers to look back and think about the first time they realized that certain parts of the media world aren’t so great. I think that’s true, but one of the reasons I felt it was important that I write this was because I know that so many people feel the way I do, but are too afraid to say it. I wanted to open up the discussion so that those who are nervous about getting involved in this world could know that they didn’t have to feel that way, that some of it sucks, sure: and here’s my experience on that. But not everyone is this way. I’m not! Many of the people who have e-mailed me are not. Honestly, I just did not want others to have to feel as shitty as I did on Saturday night. Instead, I wanted to cut it open so that we can examine it, critique it, yes-- and then move on. I don’t want to build my career around trashing people. Loyal readers of J&J know that I am not that kind of person in the slightest. I have my opinions, and I insist on being honest, but I do not want to be malicious or cutthroat or cruel.

It was really difficult for me to put myself out there like I did, but since I do want to be a writer, I guess above all it opened doors and kind of showed me what the media world is about. Now I have a lot to think about: is this something I’d like to truly participate in? Can I even handle the criticism? What kind of writer, besides an honest one, do I want to be, and how do I reconcile both?

I may have decided to decry a certain sect of literary elites, but I’m still confused about who I am, what I want to write about, and what kind of audience I want to garner. But, I suppose, I’m only 20. I have some time to figure that stuff out. We all do.



Sara said...

You have a lot of living and a lot of learning to do.

Jess and Josh said...

Could not agree more.

The Boots and Bangs Club said...

Don't let the comments get to you(easier said then done, obviously), your writing and take on an event is getting tons of positive attention as well which is totally impressive for 20 years old and will lead to great opportunities.

lezzymcguire said...

You painted a really vivid picture of the type of event most of us will never get to attend. Kudos for that, and for remaining honest.
My greatest aspiration was to write for Radar, and hearing stories from a friend in Brooklyn solidified a recent decision to sell my soul and go into advertising. Advertising is a bullshit industry, but at least everyone knows it's built on bullshit, so there's an inherent honesty there.
Stories like the one told in your article are why people always tell you not to meet your heroes.

Anonymous said...


Ami said...

Hey Jess,

Found your blog through the wilds of Gawker/NYMag and I have to say I can only imagine the feelings of disappoint. As someone of a similar age who holds (held? no, still holds) similar delusions of the New York Literary Elites, it was both heartening and tragic to see them for who they really are. Keep up the great writing- I am totes adding J&J to my reading list.

Casey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Casey said...

Drew Rosenhaus earned his ten percent.

For me New York has always been the land.

miss_rachelh said...

Hi Jess, first let me say that I really liked your piece in NY Mag. It might get you into shit with some people, but it was good read - from the heart.

And writing something like that and publishing it on a platform of that size takes courage. I don't know if you've read Keith Gessen's book (regardless of what the guy's frenemies say, I thought it was actually very good), but ironically, he raises this very subject in his book - one of my favourite parts. There's no shame in being an honest writer, Jess - actually, that's the only kind of writer worth being.

Seneca the Younger said...

Jess, you're a lovely writer, evocative and clear; don't worry about finding what you want to write about. Just keep writing and it will find you.

yourf favorite writers favorite writer said...

I had obviously never heard of you until this event, I thought your thesis du jour on the Daily Intel was excellent. I know nothing of the literati world to say the least except optically through gawker or nymag, but the evisceration of your pre-constructed dreams of what a life as a writer is like was very telling and a concise reflection on so many things in humanity. The fakeness abviously is most abstrusive to you but its the same throughout all industies, u have to shake the right hands from the restaurant business to getting the law firm offer to wall street deals. Reading your examination was cathartic for me almost, i dont know how u will react in the long run but i learned to be thicker skinned though on occasion it still does pierce and resonate uncomfortably. Terrific piece all together.

La Flâneur said...

Jessica, I'd read your piece through Jezebel some time ago (in internet years), and I read this one too, with interest. Congratulations on getting to the party in the first place; I'm sorry it sucked. Thanks for your good-faith effort to tell the truth--I'm 24, and work in publishing (not the sexy kind), and maybe want to be a writer, and can imagine feeling just the way you did, so it's not just that you're twenty and a student. Hang in, & keep writing.