August 7, 2011

"An Ex Blogs. Is it O.K. to Watch?"

This is one of those NYT "Modern Love" columns, and it ranks #3 on the NYT "most e-mailed" list. A woman discovers and reads a blog written by an old boyfriend. So what?
Buried among the philosophical musings and literary exegeses were struggles of a more intimate nature. Somewhere in the course of creating his blogs, my ex had slipped into the role of diarist.
As noted, it's a blog. She professes surprise to find that "a guy in his 40s" would include "amid a cogent dissection of 'Infinite Jest,'... an account of his outré dream from the night before." Why is that surprising? It's a blog. The man she'd known had "literary aspirations," and why wouldn't a writer who cared about "Infinite Jest" indulge in an odd digression or two. It's the kind of thing the book's author does, and writers read novels to get ideas that they can use in their own writing.

To me, it's irritating that this "Modern Love" columnist is "surprised" that a blogger goes into a personal digression and that she tells us it's "outré" but not whether it's good writing.

But it's all about her. She says "There was dirt here," but that only means that she has a prurient interest in digging into this man's life — or at least in writing a NYT "Modern Love" column about her emotions in relation to internet technology.

You'd think this "Modern Love" column had already been written! A woman sees an old boyfriend's internet presence and she's launched on an emotional arc: It's like finding his diary! Ooh! Am I bad to peek? To become obsessed? He's married, but I can horn into his life....

Settle down, lady! He's writing on the internet. You're reading the things he chose to post in public. He's looking for readers. Annoyingly, the NYT doesn't link to his blog, so he's not getting new readers. But this woman who's displaying her titillation in reading him gets a "Modern Love" column. She's Helen Schulman, whose "most recent novel is 'This Beautiful Life' (Harper)."

Picture yourself as this guy, this guy with literary ambition who would like to be read but is written about, in the NYT, by a woman with a string of well-published novels. I'd like to read his "Modern Love" column about his emotions in relation to the old media that is the NYT with its "Modern Love" column!

Schulman goes on:
As time passed and I kept reading, I cultivated a stake in his life, in him. “Way to go, honey!” I thought when he turned the troubled boy around. And “No, stop!” when he heedlessly posted explicit musings about his kinky sex dreams. I wanted to tell him, “Just forgive yourself: there’s nothing terrible in these fantasies. But do you really want your kids to stumble upon this stuff the way that I did?”

He was in need of a cyberintervention. I toyed with the idea of contacting him; I had a bizarre desire to help. The intimacy of his postings reawakened old feelings of loyalty and attachment — and irritation and annoyance.

I thought about writing to ex as myself, and I wondered if he would find it creepy. Was it creepy? Maybe it was.
So... maybe this guy doesn't deserve the exposure or would be hurt if he got it. And maybe his writing isn't good enough to deserve any help from a woman with a string of well-published novels. Maybe exactly what he deserves is this semi-exposure, this absorption into the literary work of the successful author, the one whose "literary aspirations" have long been sumptuously fulfilled.

Take that, ex!

IN THE COMMENTS: Fred4Pres says:
She can't link to them because all the blogs vanished.
He's right. She says:
The day after ex posted something he decidedly should not have, talking about his students in a way no teacher ever should... someone with sense in his real world must have gotten to him. By the next morning, all the blogs had vanished.
AND: Remember that teacher who was suspended for writing mean things about her students, calling them "lazy whiners" and so forth?


Fred4Pres said...

She can't link to them because all the blogs vanished. She notes it was because he posted something he should not have (and he might have figured that out and gotten rid of the blogs). Then again, perhaps he had blogger as his platform?

Leland said...

So the NYT writes an article about life outside the NYT that is ultimately only self-serving to the NYT?

Did the sun rise in the east today?

pm317 said...

I love it how you take on these pretentious lefty loons -- 'oh look at me! I am going to help this poor poor little man because (wait for it) I so care about him, because I am such a good person'. Poor man, he does not need this. Leave him alone. Go away!

G Joubert said...

Her interest in her ex's writings was an obsession. She should be asking herself more about that.

rhhardin said...

Outré is the beginning of outrage.

Just add the French deadjectival nominal -age.

The word itself says so.

Ann Althouse said...

"I love it how you take on these pretentious lefty loons -- 'oh look at me! I am going to help this poor poor little man because (wait for it) I so care about him, because I am such a good person'. Poor man, he does not need this. Leave him alone. Go away!"

Why is that lefty? I think a lot of righties claim empathy in a way that ends with the conclusion that this person is best off without help.

Shouting Thomas said...

The Amazon blurb for Shulman's novel:

When the Bergamots move from a comfortable upstate college town to New York City, they’re not quite sure how they’ll adapt—or what to make of the strange new world of well-to-do Manhattan. Soon, though, Richard is consumed by his executive role at a large New York university, and Liz, who has traded in her academic career to oversee the lives of their children, is hectically ferrying young Coco around town.

Fifteen-year-old Jake is gratefully taken into the fold by a group of friends at Wildwood, an elite private school.

Spoiled, vapid New Age hippie bitch! Where's Crack on this one? Jesus, I'd shoot myself in the head before I'd read this crap.

Meanwhile, I'm reading an excellent Javascript book. That's worthwhile. Some great project exercises.

Automatic_Wing said...

She can't link to them because all the blogs vanished

Or never existed in the first place. This is the NYT, after all.

Paddy O said...

Speaking of books, my new book is now out on Kindle.

How Long? The Trek Through the Wilderness

pm317 said...

It is predominantly a lefty thing because most of them delude themselves into thinking they know better and they are born do-gooders and philanthropists out to save the man and the earth. I see the same mindset in this woman.

{thanks for the response, Ann. Got to run though. I am also on my anniversary trip! Have to go climb the Backbone mountain, :)}

chickelit said...

Oh my, such subtlefuge!

Anonymous said...

OT: Garage Mahal call your office.
"Mystery Roadkill Prompts DNR Investigation"

edutcher said...

This is what the Gray Lady does.

Cry, whine, moan, and complain about how hard their upper class lives are.

chickelit said...

One day I may understand all this NYT-centric bitching and moaning on the part of so many. On the other hand, it might just be too late for me (too old). I much prefer Troop York's unvarnished version of the Empire.

Lucius said...

I think reading the ex's blog was giving her what "Heartiste" would call (do I have this right?) a 'rosy vulva.'

Of course who knows what he wrote about the alleged students. Could've just been "lazy whiners", which is a ridiculously defensible characterization for anyone to make of them.

Of course, she leaves it with an ambiguous whiff of what could be Humbertian, so it's yet another win in her manipulation of his non-fame.

Ann Althouse said...

"'She can't link to them because all the blogs vanished.' Or never existed in the first place. This is the NYT, after all."

Well, you'd think we could find something cached. I tried. Used "Infinite Jest" and "dream" and tried some other things.

William said...

If you are playing marry, fuck, or kill with a coprophiliac, a homocidal sadist, or a writer, my choice would be to kill the writer. That's not to say that there isn't a lot of overlap in these categories.

Peter Hoh said...

I think that the usage rules around "blog" are unsettled. The writer of the "Modern Love" piece uses the term differently than I would.

"Somewhere in the course of creating his blogs, my ex had slipped into the role of diarist."

The way I use it, her ex created a blog, not "blogs." An individual entry is a post, not a blog. Collectively, the posts are the blog.

Maybe it's a problem of definition. What does she think a blog is, if not a kind of diary?

Diary, by the way, provides a good model from which to think about the noun form of "blog." One doesn't write "diaries," unless one has more than one. One has a diary, in which one writes entries.

Blog as a verb -- that seems a bit fuzzy to me.

I think it's an intransitive verb, for instance, but I don't say that with authority.

I'd say that it's correct to say that someone blogs. That is, they have a blog that they update periodically.

But if I saw Althouse in a coffee shop, typing away at her computer, I wouldn't ask, "Are you blogging?"

Carrying on the hypothetical, let's say Althouse and I were hanging out and saw something amusing. Would it be correct to ask, "Are you going to blog that?"

It feels odd to phrase it that way, but it's a lot shorter than, "Are you going to post something about that on your blog?"

In usage, shortcuts often win over time.

pm317 said...

So why did she want to 'rescue' him if his blogs had already disappeared and he stopped writing? My husband said she was still not over him, haha.

{It is raining here and we can't climb Backbone, :( }

jamboree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lucius said...

I always try to write like a woman when I'm doing 'creative writing.'