And The Heart Says Whatever: Emily Gould Is My New Hero

I loved this book.


It's funny because I spent an entire afternoon trash talking And The Heart Says Whatever via Twitter. I'd read her essay in New York Times Magazine (upon which this book is based) and I thought it too self-pitying. If you exploit your personal life for fame and fame exploits you right back well, who's to blame for that?

Author Emily Gould is the former editor of Gawker, the monolith online media blog. She's known for being narcissistic, overly self-aware and unafraid to lay the most intimate details of her life bare on the Internet.

It's possible I may be a mini-Emily Gould because I related to her completely throughout her new collection of essays, And the Heart Says Whatever. Narcissism, if it is that, has never been so entertaining.

Reviewers seem to feel that they enjoyed the book but they often cite reservations. The worry appears to be that Gould represents the height of the "female personal memoir" - young women getting book deals to write about their feelings. Does this extent of liberation, having free rein to expose their lives (and the people in them) to the public, paint women poorly? Or is it not liberated enough in that nothing serious is being said here?

To address the latter, I don't know what could be more serious for a young woman. Gould discusses the alcoholism and underlying sexism rampant in a Midwestern college. She talks about the low-level whoring necessary for a big take at the end of your waitressing shift (and this New York magazine article about bar hostessing as the new prostitution makes this even more relevant). She delves into the painful morass that is your first serious relationship and its decline, your first serious bout of depression/anxiety.

The essay about Gould's time spent as a junior editor at a US publishing giant was by far my favorite (this publisher is known for their celeb and blockbuster titles). As Gould says, "I was realizing that the production of book-shaped products had very little to do with "books," the holic relics that my college education had been devoted to venerating."

Gould's time at the publisher, as recounted in her essay, is by turns hilarious (her diplomatic boss's bitchy streak), disheartening (after 20 years of producing pop products, her boss has earned the right to edit the occasional work by a gay author or such) and illuminating (Gould looks at the groomed and important women above her and considers whether she really wants their life, typical of a young woman trying to establish her heroes).

"Like many people I'd come to New York City with this idea that I was somehow extraordinary," says Gould. It's her take-no-prisoners ambitiousness and naive faith in her abilities that likely polarizes people but it's what made me appreciate and relate to her.

And the Heart Says Whatever/Emily Gould / Simon & Schuster / Original Trade PB, 2010


Kerry Clare said...

Have you read Meghan Daum's essay collection "My Misspent Youth"? I loved it. Her new book is good too. And I do want to read Sloane Crosley's book at some point, the cake one. Have you read it? I remember you mentioning her new one a while back...

Jackie said...

Sounds like an interesting collection. I love intelligent reads when they're highlighted with humour and emotion.

Guinevere said...

That sounds really interesting! Adding to my "To Read..." Thanks for the review!

B.Kienapple said...

Hey Kerry, I have not read that...yet! I'm putting it on hold. I haven't read Sloane's first one but I just read her second, How Did You Get This Number, for work. The last essay is the strongest, in my mind.
Jackie and Guinevere - looking forward to hearing what you think!

Ceri said...

I've wondered whether or not to read this. I heard so many mixed things about Gould, and I got pretty much the same reaction to her essay than you did. After reading your review, I think I'll probably give it a go. :D


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