Saturday, December 25, 2010

And The Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould


The collection of personal essays And The Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould couldn't be more similar to How Did You Get This Number. Both are non-fictional stories about girls in their twenties who move to New York City from suburban American upper-middle class households to become writers and work in publishing. The writers themselves, however, couldn't be more different. While reading Sloane Crosley feels like talking to a socially-adept, amiable acquaintance at a cocktail party, we never really get through her polished, put-together image to her real self. Her carefully crafted stories with their witty language and intricate sentences are funny and quirky, but always appropriate enough to tell to an older family member, or a co-worker. Sloane's squeaky-clean persona is wrapped in enough mystique and glamor, that we want to be like her, well-traveled, successful, but still likeable. While we look up to her, we can't help but wonder about what her real personal life is like, because she never quite lets the reader behind her closed bedroom door. Perhaps Sloane's stories are good enough without the need to give up her privacy, but in the age of reality shows, our voyeuristic inclination takes the best of us and we request the airing of dirty laundry of everyone who comes our way. Sloane's best story in my opinion, and in the opinion of most critics, “Off the back of the Truck,” stands out because of its authenticity compared with the rest of her stories. We not only get a glimpse into her love life for the first time, but also because she shows us a new side of her, one that is vulnerable and not so well put-together.

The author of And The Heart Says Whatever, Emily Gould, is a stark comparison to Sloane Crosley. If reading Sloane's stories feels like talking to her at a cocktail party, reading Emily's work feels like talking to your roommate while sharing a cigarette on a Brooklyn fire escape. She'll tell you about that time she de-virginized a high school freshman at the end of her senior year, or when she play-wrestled with a butch lesbian and then came into work with a huge bruise on her arm, taken for a mark left by an abusive boyfriend. She is anything but polished and well put-together in her interactions with others, showing up for a job interview at a publishing house in a skirt that is not only too short but also covered in cat hair, and when asked to talk about the last movie that she saw by a potential employer, she compares the film to porn.

Unlike Sloane Crosley, Emily is not afraid to face and discuss those events in her life that show her in an unfavorable light. She admits to making questionable choices, opening herself up be judged. She confesses to cheating on her boyfriend of six years and then embarking on a series of meaningless, sex-based relationships, that instead of filling a void, end up creating one. She is also not afraid to seem vulnerable, when describing her panic attacks, which she started having on a regular basis when moving to New York. She wonders whether they were caused by her habitual pot smoking, which would numb her feelings and render her especially sensitive to the effects of the real world when she was not high.
Emily Gould's most unethical decision, which she fully acknowledges herself, is exactly what makes her book so interesting: her oversharing of private information with perfect strangers. She started her writing career by blogging, revealing things about her personal life, which her boyfriend wanted to keep private, to several hundreds of people. After quitting her publishing job, she went on to write for, where she wrote a gossip column about New York's media industry. In addition to writing about her private life, she now began to disclose the juicy secrets of the rich and famous. The amorality of Emily's writing began to grate away at her relationship with her boyfriend and eventually contributed to its demise.

I think anyone who ever had to end a long-term relationship, go through the indignities of an entry-level job, or tried to make it in the big city, will appreciate the unpretentiousness, humor, and sadness that permeate these stories.
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