Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould
I tried to write a quick post about this book, but instead I went down a rabbit hole. What I had intended to say was something along the lines of this: I spent two nights staying up way too late reading this book, in the end it was not justified. I was not moved by the character or her plight—or more specifically, by the way her plight was expressed.
Instead I decided that, before writing my post, I would read some reviews of the book and see if anyone else agreed with me. But first I read the back cover of the book (always a mistake to read it first and, as usual, it gave away much of the plot). And then I focused on the 3 blurbs that were on the front and back cover, glowing reviews from well-known writers. On the cover was a quote from Stephanie Danler, the author of Sweetbitter, a book I quite liked. That is what probably originally motivated me to read the book, that and the fact that it’s (supposed to be) set in the music world (warm memories of reading and greatly enjoying Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – a much better book, read that one instead). I dunno – maybe these writers are friends of the author’s – the book I read doesn’t deserve the raves these writers gave it – sorry.
But I was taken by something Danler said about the author – she called her “one of the most essential writers of the internet generation.” What exactly does that mean? I wondered. What is/who is the internet generation and why is Emily Gould essential to it, according to Stephanie Danler? So I decided to Google the author and learn more about her. And thus: rabbit hole.
Emily Gould has a lot of cool things in her bio. She co-runs a publishing imprint called Emily Books. She is married to the author Keith Gessen. I read his novel A Terrible Country, about a Russian man who returns to Moscow after many years in the US and what his experience there kind of caught between two cultures is like. I taught the novel in my Hot Off the Press class and we had a great discussion about it.
But Emily Gould is perhaps best known for an incident that happened when she was interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel who was, at that time, guest-hosting the Larry King show. Gould was then working for Gawker media, and oversaw something called the Gawker Stalker, in which people could post celebrity sightings. Kimmel and his guests excoriated her for running a part of a website that, they claimed, jeopardized the safety of celebrities by publicizing their locations (“so someone posts that they just saw Gwyneth Paltrow at the movies, they said, and when she comes out there are 12 psychopaths waiting for her) and also didn’t fact check any of their material. Kimmel was particularly upset because he had been falsely accused on the site of being seen drunk. Gould responds with smiles and eyerolls and claims she is representing citizen journalism.
This interview was followed by much press, many editorials, and was even copied in a scene in Aaron Sorkin’s show “The Newsroom” (a scene I had seen – loved that show! – without knowing what inspired it). Gould herself wrote many articles about the incident, about her life at Gawker basically tearing people down online, and about her tendency to overshare, in particular a very long piece in the NYT Sunday magazine recounting how she felt about her experience at Gawker all these years later.
So now I know a great deal more than I did before about Emily Gould, and so do you. But I really haven’t said much about the book. At the outset, we are introduced to Laura, who is 16 and living in Ohio and dreaming of becoming a singer/songwriter. At 22 she goes to NYC to pursue her dream. And she really seems to be on track to achieving it when suddenly she goes in a completely different direction (which was a surprise to me, because, as I mentioned already, I hadn’t read the back cover copy).
I was expecting a book about someone trying to make it in the music business, which this kind of only peripherally is.
What’s your favorite book about the music business?
p.s. Very pretty book cover!