Each weekend, Gawker contributing editor Kiese Laymon posts an essay from readers. I usually enjoy ’em, but this week’s, not so much. Now I’m no Hunter Thompson, but I do feel qualified to comment on writer Ruth Fowler’s treatment of French cocaine and dirt-sex since they relate to personal responsibility, the consequences of one’s actions, and, of course, justifications and excuses — my daily obsessions.
I can’t post Gawker’s content, so I’ll just have to hope you return to see how I weigh in.
Ruth Is Heartless, But the World Breaks Everyone
Fowler may disagree, but I don’t see much on consequence here. Sure, readers learn she was seen as a (presumably infantile and catty) toxic piece of shit, but there’s little mention of a struggle to own that, which says a lot about the whole miserable picture — including the writer’s expectations and entitlements. It’s not that Fowler, or any writer, is obligated to tack on the groveling, the self discovery, or the 12-step empowerment, but such balance can often make or break a “coming in from the coke” confessional. If Fowler has no regrets, that’s cool too, but front-loading the essay with the kind of category-5 drug antics that most people wish they could undo suggests otherwise. The material is strong in parts, but it’s pretty grueling.
For such a paltry pay-off, I also think it asks too much of its readers. Lyricized episodes aren’t storytelling, they’re tattoos. Has Fowler’s years-long jihad of self-gratification compromised her ability to narrate more than she realizes?
I didn’t like the bait ‘n switch. I thought I’d be treated to some inventive insight on the long list of literary self-soliers implied in the opening paragraph. I thought Fowler would get around to admitting she’d gotten it all wrong – that deadlines don’t like drunks no matter how much they’re romanticized. I was even hoping she’d make me feel a little better about Hunter Thompson’s sad ending. You know, being reminded that –like all of us– Hunter and the others were only human. After all, I was similarly inspired by the man. Instead, Fowler gives us a nail only halfway hammered in – with her hat hung on it. I dunno, it felt manipulative.
(I’m tempted to get all crazy on the coke-whore humor and James Frey references here, but we’re movin’ on.)
Point is, readers are smarter than this. People see through self-serving narratives — just read the Gawker comments! I sorta’ feel bad for Fowler, but no one asked her to put her head in the guillotine with this particular effort.
UPDATE: I’m at a loss for words over the war of words erupting between this disoriented, vengeful writer-woman and Gawker readers. Having chomped on the bait set by a hundred fishermen, she posted declamatory “Dear Haters” defense, only to see these monsters swarm on it with libelous scorn, insults and challenges. For this, she writes, “patriarchy” is at fault, (not her fanning the flames). Boy, I hope next Sunday’s essay produces this much literary blood in the water.