Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I choose Vodka. And Chaka Khan.

Ten years ago I was 23 and just finishing up college. I was part of a group of women at that time who were influenced by a change in media representations of women that would resonate for years. Bridget Jones's Diary was released in 1996, followed swiftly by Sex and the City in 1998, ushering in a decade of martinis and Manolos and mad women. Chick lit exploded, and I was an eager participant in that cultural shift.

And now, 10 years later, it all feels a little tired to me. I've been there and done that. I've had my many one night stands and mortifying hangovers and friends with benefits and living for the next party. Those of us who felt empowered by "fucking like men" and being single are now, most likely, fucking husbands or fiances or long-term partners. Those singletons have generally become smug marrieds.

So for me, reading today's blog was a bit of a blast from the past. The Compulsive Confessor feels familiar because I've read it before. There are now literally hundreds (thousands?) of girl-about-town wine swillers writing about their experiences with sex and the city or the suburb. They're all pretty and eager and sassy and angst-ridden. And I, jaded 33-year-old (eyes rolling), want to pat them on their glossy heads and tell them to be original.

But eM actually is kind of original. Come to find out, she's a bit of a maverick. Because she's not writing about her "exploits" (god, how I loathe that word) in New York or Chicago or even Atlanta. She's writing from Delhi and Bombay, where there are strict obscenity laws and women can be punished for behavior like hers. And? She's kind of famous and pretty popular (or reviled).

To the basics: The template is ok. Three columns aren't necessary, but it's not hurting my eyes terribly. I like the banner, and I don't mind all the pink because I'm a girl. Roll up the archives and the categories (I'm like a broken record on this point) and move the stat stuff to the bottom of one of the sidebars. And add an "about" page.

Now, on to the writing. Infamous or not, eM is a professional entertainment journalist. Which honestly? Kind of surprises me. Ok, the writing is fine. At times pretty amusing. But for a professional writer there are an awful lot of grammatical snafus. Considering the trauma we all experienced with our spate of Indian emo bloggers who submitted for review, her leaving off periods and using some internet-speak and writing huge blocks of paragraphs is nothing. But come on. You do this for a living? And you're writing a book? Start acting like it on your blog. We say it again and again. EDIT. Boil it down to the necessary bits, excise extraneous words and ramblings. Have a point and stick to it. Or at the very least be concise.

eM has been keeping this blog for a good while, which is admirable. And as much as I'm probably not her target audience (though there are some relatable bits), she is, at the very least, honest. Her blog is exactly what it sets out to be: "twenty-something, single, female, writer, with large groups of friends and who goes out for drinks pretty regularly. That's my life and that's what I write about." This is the truth.

As a reader, I could use more meat, more substance, more depth, and more maturity. The writing is, for the most part, surface and superficial. But then she doesn't claim to be otherwise. Even though it's not for me, whatever she's doing is garnering her attention, accolades, and some arrows. And whatever I think of her writing abilities, I admire her for being brash and ballsy in a world that typically frowns on her behavior. It is obvious that she loves to write, but whether that love stems from confession or crafting remains to be seen. Right now I'm betting on confession.

I'm a bit torn on the rating for this one. I give it two stars because she blogs consistently and frequently, the template didn't make me want to stick needles in my eyes, the writing is fine, she amuses me, it made me all nostalgic, and she's kind of ballsy.

But I give it a flaming finger, too, because someone who writes professionally and is about to have a book published should care more about craft, should put more effort into the words she shares with the blogging community. Your blog got you recognized. Don't shit on that recognition and opportunity by shortchanging your blog with meandering posts with overlong paragraphs and lazy editing. You can do better, and you should. Pay attention to your words, be present in your writing, consider your audience, and give them something that you've polished up and are proud of. Even the most superficial twaddle can be worthwhile if the writer is an artisan.


  1. I love that "professional" writers still need us to validate their blogs...

    Maybe that's too harsh; perhaps they're just expecting us to be blown away by their incredible writing-talent, to be too distracted by their luminescence to actually give criticism.

    I guess I should wait until this author responds before I traipse down the trail of generalization...


  2. I'm pretty sure she can take it. She likely gets raked over the coals by misogynistic bastards on a regular basis, so this will be a cake walk.

  3. I miss George.

    I love editors.

    Hi, Calamity dear.

    (I guess that's everything.)

  4. oooh, wait!

    Validation, too. I love validation (ask my therapists.)

    OK I'm done.

  5. It may be that Em's meandering posts are what endeared her to her readers in the first place. I am amazed at how often reviewers think they have the last word on grammar and sentence construction, as if there were only one way to write. Honestly, if everyone followed what their English teachers told them, then Rushdie would be a consultant at McKinsey or something, and Irvine Welsh would probably be a janitor.


  6. Sameer, I wouldn't know. Maybe that is why they like her. I suspect Em didn't submit her blog for review so that I would delve into the inner workings of her audience and figure out why they like her. My task is to figure out if I like her and give my opinion.

    I don't presume to think there's one way to write, else I wouldn't enjoy such varied authors as Harry Crews and Marion Keyes. There is, however, a generally accepted convention called punctuation. It calls for a period at the end of sentences. Little things like the lack of periods or capitalization or a prevalence of cutesy internet-speak or the presence of huge blocks of text tend to camouflage and take away from what otherwise might be fine writing. Grammatical conventions (notice I don't call them rules) are the niceties of communication and without them your point will likely be missed. Or completely ignored because your reader is too annoyed by your lack of focus.

    I'm a huge fan of Irving Welsh, but guess what? He's concise. He's creative and edgy and original. And at least in my copy of Trainspotting, his paragraphs are brief and there isn't a spare word, not an extraneous adjective.

    I am amazed at how frequently we are taken to task for doing what we say we're going to do in the first place, what people sign up for us to do.

  7. Hi,
    Thanks (?) for the review. I'd like to clarify though, that I DIDN'T send you my site for review, someone else must have, so, um.. yeah.

  8. The person who submitted this blog for review was Meenakshi Madhavan, e-mail thecompulsiveconfessor@gmail.com.

    I wonder if the fact that it's taking us about 4 weeks to review a blog these days (due to the waiting list) is at fault for people thinking they didn't sign up?

  9. Whoa, a double rating!

    I couldn't really get in to her writing, I'm just too far removed from a twenty-something Indian woman to relate. And I'm traveling, and grumpy. Meh.

  10. Maggie, I miss George too. Where have you gone you mad masochistic Micronesian?

  11. Hey !!! Prof.. Miss me....in the land of Micronesia, things are looking good!!!

    (Want more "!!!" , call me) ;)

  12. So whats up? need help to cross "200" i presume?

  13. I thought he'd abandoned us!

    Either they're forgetting they submitted (or they're delusional) or there's some mad Indian with loads of personal information running around submitting people. Those madcaps.

  14. Hello,
    Anybody can submit her bog to be reviewed simply because her email id is in the public space and her name is quite popular in the blogging space.
    Anybody could have done that.

  15. Anybody could have, I suppose, but it seems very, very doubtful. Conspiracy theorists, get to work!

    But, so that we don't have to deal with these claims of a rampant anonymous blog submitter, we're working on tracking IPs. So don't come crying to us anymore that you didn't ask for it.

  16. Why would she come for recognition from you when Penguin has already commissioned her for a book after reading her blog?
    Since both of you have installed sitemeter it would be a good excercise to check the site stats and compare yourself with her.
    In the end, you might need a review from her.
    And for heaven's sake with the kind of stuff which she writes on her blog she gets truck loads of shit everyday, and in comparison your reviewer is quite sympathetic to her than most of the blogging world.

  17. Why would she want "recognition" from us? Bloggers are all attention whores (present company not excluded). What's a little more attention to add to the pile? Also, I don't assume that everyone who submits their blog for review wants recognition. I hope that some of them actually want to know what we think.

    Sure, she gets a lot of traffic. But train wrecks pile up traffic, too.

  18. Maybe that's why you decided to sleep with her blog so that you can spruce up your traffic. I saw your comment in her blog:
    "Calamity said...
    Prepare yourself: you've been reviewed."
    I am sure it added up to quite a lot as traffic for your blog.

    I am talking about the comment which she has made here which categorically states that she hasn't submitted her blog. Why won't you respect her when she says that?
    And your comment above is paradoxical.
    In the beginning you say bloggers are attention whores which you negate in the end by saying that they submit their blogs to know what you think?
    Whoring as you know is not about stability. isn't it?

  19. I am the mad Indian you presumptious racist bitch...

  20. Uh, we say that on every blog who submits for review so that they know we've reviewed them. It's policy. To think that I'd just randomly select some obscure blog half the world away to jump our stats is preposterous.

    Frankly, it doesn't matter whether I respect her word. She hasn't complained to us to be taken down so I'm left to assume she's fine with it.

    And besides, you said yourself my review was small potatoes compared to the vilification she normally receives. I even had fairly positive things to say, so why you've got your panties in a bunch I have no idea other than you enjoy slinging barbs, which is a-ok with me.

    At present, there is no way to know whether she submitted her blog herself or whether someone with some bizarre agenda submitted her blog, and either way I couldn't care less.

    Ok, you did get me there, clever boy. Bloggers are all attention whores, I stand by that. But some of them ALSO want to get a review. I should have said, "I don't assume that everyone who submits their blog for review ONLY wants recognition."

    Ria: So you're fessing up to submitting random blogs? Not the best confession since you're anonymous and vitriolic. Nice one trying to get the shit stirred.

  21. When did all THIS happen?

    "Presumptious racist bitch"?


    Hey, Calamity - you must really be getting a ton of hits to your "Calamity" blog, huh? I mean, that's why you joined Ask, isn't it? To get a "book deal" with Penguin?


  22. See it doesn't really matter whether I have got my panties down or thongs up. All I was saying was that If she says she hasn't submitted her blog don't just discard her opinion.
    Yea I like beating people with barbs.
    You could have fucking stated in the beginning that you care less but if it is your hobby to get barbed, we can have a party.
    Why is the blow jobber peaking in??
    The voyeur can only hope to touch a penguin. The act of voyeurism do
    not anyway operate on the principle of touch. He can of course look and enjoy!
    A tap on his head.
    @ Ria: thanks.

  23. Oh, brother.

    That's some pretty low-grade I Ching crap you're peddling there, sir; methinks one should spend less time reading greeting-cards and more time getting ahold of one's self.

    I mean, honestly, that's terrible.


  24. Oh friend,
    I didn't know you distinguish between low grade and high grade abuses? That too in a place like this?
    And above all you are asking me to indulge in deep philsophical speculation than read pop culture and spoil myself?
    Now if you say that there is a politically correct way to abuse people teach me that; but after admitting that hypocrisy isn't completely lost on the world.
    But I accept your fraternal hug although the civilising mission kind of scares me!
    For showing the dark underbelly of your seemingly gregarious visage(which is only half visible) I condemn you by calling you George (your other bunny). I guess that is the worst insult I can offer at this moment.

  25. Listen, James? I'm not sure if you're aware of this or not, but just putting words back-to-back and ending these runs with a period doesn't necessarily mean that you're creating coherent sentences; in fact, it more sort of looks like you're trying a little too hard to impress...hm.

    While I DID wake up on the vitriolic side of the bed this morning, well, you're really not doing anything for me, dude.

    Sorry - you gave it your best shot, though, didn't you?

  26. I really gave my best shot and you are least impressed by that shot. Aren't you?
    It's o.k, I understand for some people it's hard to understand certain things?
    If you are bored go read my blog and give me your grammar tutelage, pater.

  27. Again, hmmm.

    While you're right that I am LEAST impressed with your "shot", I'm going to go for broke here and assume, based on the nonsense you've written here, that your blog needs a little more help than what a visit from the grammar police would provide.

    So, while you might think a trip over your way would ease my boredom, I'm thinking it would probably be the opposite.

    You say "tomato", I say "pineapple", huh?

  28. Oh, Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

  29. so what precisely riled up the injuns?

  30. Well Calamity,

    You've posted a review, allowed comments, made some snarky little remarks. And you're amazed that someone takes you to task over something they don't agree with?

    On the internet??? Heh.

    BTW, it's 'Irvine' Welsh - not Irving. And he's great, but definitely not concise - and convention is pretty much out the window when someone bases their entire career on novels written in Scottish brogue. All I'm saying is that modern writing need not follow 'conventions like punctuation', because convention these days is a fluid concept that depends on an individual's framework. Welsh definitely drops punctuation whenever it suits him. She falls outside your definition of conventional, therefore you're not a fan. I'm just calling it like it is. Maybe she IS just lazy... seems to work for her.

    Just to clarify, I actually enjoy snarky comments by semi-ironic reviewers. Brightens up a dull business day. I just assumed that your readers could participate too. Peace.


  31. Though this isn't addressed to me, I'm SUPER happy that we could help you out, Sameer.


  32. Dammit, dammit, dammit! Irving, Irvine. Dammit!

    You don't agree with the premise of this blog? Fantastic. Or just my review? Either way, more power to you.

    As to Irvine (dammit!) and his conventions, at the very least he's consistent within his pieces. They aren't glaring mistakes couched in whimsy. I feel confident he didn't omit them and go, "Well, it's a style thing!" Which, by the way, neither did eM because it seems she couldn't care less about this review.

    Look, I'm an editor (Irvine -- dammit!). You're never going to convince me that poor writing can be excused because the writer's genius is not constrained by the frivolities of basic grammar. I'm not saying a writer can't fudge here and there, but they can't haphazardly lowercase and omit punctuation and call it good, either.

    Her being outside the conventional has very little to do with me not being a fan. (If you knew me, which you don't and won't, but if you did, you'd know how laughable that is.) If the writing were up to snuff, I could easily overlook grammatical snafus. That is, after all, what editors are for. Problem is, it's not. It's barely decent writing. I mean, seriously. Her top entry when I did the review was a rip-off of a glaringly bad Rob Schneider movie. And you're comparing her to Welsh and Rushdie? Really?

  33. Ok, maybe not easily. But MORE easily.

  34. OK, I'm DAYS late to the party, as usual, but I'm curious: I assume y'all checked your Sitemeter to make sure James Michael and George are not one-in-the-same? The similarities are eerie.

  35. @ Nutjobber: Hah..You have a bunny named George????

  36. Although that SEEMS like a question independent of anything else, I have this nagging feeling that you're referring to something, Crowley...if only I could figure out WHAT.

    A "bunny named George"...?

    Nope - I don't get it.

  37. 1. I don't agree with your review. I think the premise of the blog is great.

    2. Mentioning Rushdie and Welsh as examples of unconventional writers is not the same as putting eM up on a pedestal with them - but I see what you're doing there. Nice one, scorning a statement I supposedly made(but didn't actually make) to render my overall hypothesis ridiculous to other people (most of whom won't go back and check what I wrote). I use that tactic at the office sometimes, but not with as much finesse and subtlety as you. Guess that's why you're the editor, and me just a poor slob who can't appreciate the fact that punctuation is a pillar of civilisation, without which we would all burn in a lake of fire.

    Oops. Not subtle at all. Sigh, you win.

    Well, this verbal sparring has been (almost) fun, but since I don't (and won't) ever know you, I think I'll get back to work now. Bubye.


  38. Nutjobber - My mistake. James Michael made some comment up there, ended like so:

    I condemn you by calling you George (your other bunny)

    Which is what I was referring to.


Grow a pair.