@frumious bandersnatch I wrote about this below, but talking about "nonplussed" was meant to be a tangent, not a criticism of the piece. It's a word that's coming to mean its opposite! It was used here in the informal way! I'm interested in that. I'm sorry if it came off as Pin-bashing.
That being said, my main problem (with him describing her negatively and then asking her to describe herself) still stands. But I think it's a good piece, generally! It just misses some... empathy maybe? Like he obviously sympathizes but she's pretty removed. I don't know. I'm reading most of these comments as constructive criticisms, dealing more meatily with some of the issues of language and class and prostitution as an industry than he does.
@ru_ri I'm sorry you think my comment was superficial. I actually am fascinated by language evolving and the role sites like this have as intermediaries between unmoderated comments and traditional news media, and nonplussed coming to mean the opposite of what it means is a really fascinating instance that's been rankling for a long time, so this reminded me. But I can see how that isn't clear.
My actual criticism of the piece--that him describing her negatively AND THEN asking her to describe herself--felt mean, still stands.
I guess I'm newer but I actually really like this is a place where people can dive into criticisms and discomfort in the comments and engage in discussion around it. Like, I'm reading most of these comments as places for improvement, not a slamming of the heart of the piece.
Oof, "nonplussed." What do people think when they read that? It originally means the opposite of how it's used here (as in, "confused or taken aback") but has been misused as NOT confused (as he writes here) so some dictionaries now include that as an informal definition. Self-antonyms! Ah! But I feel like it's more viewed as a commonly misused word than something that's meaning could go either way.
I understand language evolves and I'm not trying to be a dick. Which is why I'm asking how people read it. But my general instinct (which could be wrong!) is places like The Hairpin that publish edited content should use the formal/official definition. I at least read it as "ok so she was taken aback by his question and he was disappointed that he startled her oh no wait that she wasn't taken aback?"
Combo note to the editors/curiosity about language.
(I am fine with a movement to invent the word "plussed" to mean what "nonplussed" really means and use "nonplussed" the way people misuse it. "Really" and "misuse" perhaps more inflammatory than I intend, but also words have meanings...)
ETA: Also to get to the point of the piece more, I did feel uncomfortable with him describing her so negatively and then asking her to describe herself. It felt mean.
@pawtism My favorite is "that long ago happened."
Maybe people reacted so negatively in part because of language, feels like it's trying to capture Shakespearean melodrama or something in places.
@olivia Yeah, I think that's how it was intended, so I'm glad you read it that way. I was able to see 'ok this is how I probably am supposed to be reading this' but the other stuff just hit me too forcefully to read it that way. I don't think the author is trying to say "you can't blame me," I just think it's not written well enough to convey what she wants.
@flowerpins +1 to your critique. I think a huge problem with this was the insertion of that murder (and the writing growing progressively more overwrought around it). All of the weird things you pointed out struck me, too. I understand not wanting to make it about that because that's not the story she's telling, but as a reader it was almost like a bait and switch. "Judging me? You can't with the spectre of the solemn tragedy. Identify with me? I have even more, deeper reason!" I really really don't think that's what the author meant, but for me invoking this murdered 19-year-old was too much.
I linked below to a story about the girl, because it felt weird to me to have her mentioned in passing. Not that the author-as-a-person has to engage with her family's suffering, but I feel like we as strangers maybe have more responsibility to. Her name was Emily and she was a progressive activist. And she was the friend's ex-girlfriend.
I thought the first two-thirds of this were good, but I understand the "wait what" reaction that comes towards the end. It sounds like saying "but surprise you can't judge me it wasn't my fault because of this terrible thing" (+ the writing is a little overwrought towards the end). I get how much tragedies like these can seep into your life and I understand the author not wanting to make it the story, as she wrote somewhere in the comments, but to me as a reader it was too much swerving, too late in the piece. It reads as an excuse, even if not meant to, and that feels squicky.
I'm sorry that people feel the comments are turning vile, but while understanding the mistakes we as people make and the freedom we should have to tell our own stories, I was also deeply unsettled. And I'd like to have that conversation. I think it would be a much better piece of writing if it ended before invoking the shadow of the murder.
Anyway, I too was intrigued by the litany of writing awards and opportunities afforded the author and visited her website. Reading one other story about the murder made it clear to me it was something I had read about before. Borrowing a friend's Cosmopolitan on the plane or something. I'm going to link to that article, not because I'm trying to rubberneck or be sensationalist, but in case anyone else felt a pang reading about the 19-year-old girl "unprecedentedly" murdered and felt a smidgen like we were participating in exploiting her victimhood. (I do not think the author is exploiting it as a person and sincerely feel for her trauma and think comparing suffering rights is a terrible idea. But the the passing nature of the mention in this piece on materialism and debt made me feel complicit in downplaying the victim and her family's suffering.) This article gives you a better sense of her life and the tragedy of her death, and the extent to which the author's friend's psychosis may have manifested. It's also a good reminder that threatening to self-harm unless the partner does [x] is a type of emotional abuse and can escalate suddenly. So love your friends and be watchful.
TL;DR I think there is a lot of deserved criticism for particularly the end of this piece, though I found the beginning interesting.
@laurel Yes so I totally agree that he is overly dismissed as macho bullshit, and any serious literary engagement with him should acknowledge that and those limits. But I'm also ok with a character loving his work (without any hint that there is that deeper engagement) being a code within art for a type of sensitive dudebro who measures his value in his machismo and just cannot see women as equal (even if he might pedestal them). And I think it's funny a lot of young women know this code and a lot of young men take it as hero treatment.
Maybe it's not fair that I think he's more elevated due to his white maleness and thus don't feel the need to save him when the criticism goes too far in the other direction, but that's probably my attitude. I think he is a fine author who reaches snatches of brilliance in moments--particularly his short stoies--and covers relevant themes, but who is considered a transcendent visionary because he is a white dude speaking to white dudes. A woman in the same position would be considered high chick lit and loved by a small group who thought the writing style and subject matter spoke to them. In the case of Hemingway, that small group was also the predominant literary/intellectual establishment, and so he lingers and people spend more time on learning to appreciate him and thus appreciate him more.
@leonstj It's kind of amazing to me the code that exists for many women authors (a character vocally liking Hemingway/admiring his characters pretty much tells you what you need to know) that young women readers get that young men just totally miss out on.
Massive massive over-generalizations, obviously, but I've been in a few situations like that.
@Poubelle Yeah, and I'm pretty sure her unabashed hostility isn't meant to be celebrated. And I feel like it ends with her learning to appreciate people for who they are which, ok, but she sort of loses the things the author (ETA: I mean list author) celebrates her for. She'd be towards the bottom of my list (which doesn't mean bad, just not as good).