Posted on December 27, 2011
Orchestrating capital C Christmas for two kids takes a lot of labor and attention, but throughout the wrapping, unwrapping, cooking, and cleaning, I’ve been distracted by the story “Adrian Brody” and by the reactions it’s provoked. Won’t you join me in my obsession? You can read the story here, at Muumuu House. I recommend you do.
But if you’re going to skip it (it’s long) or read it later, here’s the minimum you need to know: The piece is written by a young woman writing under the pseudonym Marie Calloway, and it first appeared on her blog as a work of nonfiction. In it, Marie goes to New York and hooks up with an older intellectual she became aware of and then propositioned online. The man has a girlfriend and is apparently well-known enough in certain literary circles that his identity–and thus his girlfriend’s–is obvious to some even when his name is changed.
I was completely drawn into the story. It nakedly addresses so many issues I’m perennially interested in and currently writing about or around: Gender, youth, age difference, sexuality, power, honesty, attraction, ethics, transaction, responsibility.
I was even more fascinated by the responses to it. Kate Zambreno’s post about the whole brouhaha was my starting point. Kate’s novel Green Girl was one of the most interesting things I’ve read this year, and I’ve been walking around writing an essay inspired by it in my head, especially since discovering a forgotten cache of journals from my early 20s and recalling…. but I digress.
This New York Observer profile of Maria Calloway provides the juiciest gossip behind the piece.
This reaction by Roxane Gay in HTML Giant asks interesting questions about the ethics of writing so openly about a situation that affects a third-person: in this case, the male character’s real-life girlfriend.
The ethics Roxane examines and the power dynamics between a hot young thing and an older intellectual male and, especially, the question of whether you should ever sleep with a writer if you have any sense of privacy or want propriety over your own story reminds me of the issues surrounding the novel You Deserve Nothing, which is about a high school teacher who has an affair with a student and which was written by Alexander Maksik, a high school teacher who had an affair with a student. Few people knew about Maksik’s firsthand experience with his subject until Jezebel broke the story after Maksik’s student lover herself contacted the blog. She and some of her classmates were upset about how closely the fiction aligned to the facts, how similar some of the female character’s dialogue and correspondence were to the student’s own. They’d tried to get the attention of the book’s publisher and The New York Times, which had reviewed the novel glowingly, but they got no response.
On Gawker, Hamilton Nolan harshes on Marie Calloway and what he sees as the droves like her, young women writing confessionally about sexual exploits and the people who think there’s something meaningful in such writing.
Here’s Marie Calloway’s reaction to the reactions.
And I’m missing some good ones. If you head down the rabbit hole, you’ll probably find them yourself.
I’m one of the people who believes there can be much that’s meaningful in reading and writing about first-person sexual encounters. I also believe that we all have a right to write from our lives. Or maybe the matter of “a right to” is moot. We’re going to write from our lives if we can’t stand not to, and then we’ll have to face the ramifications. And I understand why there will likely be ramifications. The anguish and frustration Masik’s student apparently feels struck a chord with me. Maybe she should make some art of her own about the situation. Among the many things it’s been accused of, “Adrian Brody” has been called revenge lit–a girl’s getting back at the smart guy who walked out when she wanted him to stay. But putting something down in words can have a purifying, clarifying effect. And some pretty great song lyrics can fall under the category of revenge lit. How much does the gender of the writer have to do with the reaction of the public when the topic is sex?
There’s a lot to work through here. To tell you the truth, it was fun, but I’m glad Christmas is over.
Update: The Rumpus posted an excellent interview with Marie Calloway herself. Here.
Category: fiction, memoir, writing process Tagged: Alexander Maksik, Kate Zambreno, Marie Calloway, Memoir, Muumuu House, Roxane Gay, sex