What is Love?
Late last year, Emily Gould reviewed Christina Nehring’s book A Vindication of Love in n+1.
Gould’s beef lay with Nehring’s “florid” acknowledgements section, which Gould argues
are the most obvious symptom of a disease that infects the rest of the book, comprised of equal parts bragginess and prescriptivism.
Nehring’s insistence that we all rush to reclaim love, Cristina Nehring-style, grates in the same way that any advice grates when the advice-giver presumes to know what everybody wants.
“As I write these words, I bear the bodily scars of a loss or two in love. I have been derailed by love, hospitalized by love, flung around five continents, shaken, overjoyed, inspired, and unsettled by love,” Nehring writes in her book’s epilogue. Those of us who prefer to be stirred, but not shaken, are clearly, by her reckoning, doing “love” wrong.
Nehring, in her response a month later, the author, perhaps herself narcissistic*, slights Gould for being a narcissist, in the process somewhat mis-characterising Nick Denton’s Gawker “empire”:
Gould is the person, after all, who “created a small-scale publishing industry out of mutual abuse” with her own ex-boyfriend, a colleague at Gawker, the celebrity-stalking gossip site for Peeping Toms at which she made her reputation…
(She slammed her boyfriend on her blog, her boyfriend slammed her in the New York Post, she slammed him back in the New York Times Magazine — you get the picture.)
So Keith Gessen and Emily Gould were slamming one another a lot — sometimes even with words. So what? Who cares? That’s pretty much irrelevant to Gould’s review of A Vindication.
Ms. Gould well knows that I’m not the “corduroyed fattish academic” to whom she likens me in the opening of her article.
…except that’s not what Gould was doing; she was referencing a fin-de-siècle SNL skit.
Nehring rounds off her miniature tornado of a letter by asserting that a panel assembled by the magazine lifted its title from a phrase in her book. Keith Gessen et al. “dissent from [Nehring’s] characterization of the review and our reviewer,” and point out that
the phrase “unfinished business [or work] of feminism” appears nowhere in her book” and that “the language for the title of the panel emerges from Meghan Falvey’s essay, “Woman, the New Social Problem,” which appeared in n+1, Issue 5.
So, all in all, a bit of a storm in a teacup: Gould was clearly having a bit of fun at Nehring’s expense, and Nehring went off the rails in response. I think we can all learn something here: references to Will Ferrell SNL skits & an early-’90s one-hit-wonder dancefloor filler by a Trinidadian with a Euro-trash sounding name are always enjoyable.
Also, if you’re gonna be hatin’ on a review of your work, it pays to properly interpret the criticism first.
p.s. I was disappointed to learn, upon first seeing the title of Gould’s review (“Bad Romance”), that the piece wasn’t an n+1 writer waxing lyical — or even rapping, white-ly — about the innate awesomeness of the “Telephone” video.