Emily Gould is a rather controversial figure. She is the co-founder of the e-bookstore, Emily Books, and the former co-editor of popular online news site Gawker. Her infamous interview with Jimmy Kimmel, explaining the “Gawker Stalker Maps” as a form of celebrity-fan friendly sightings, was criticized by Kimmel as actual stalking and taking away privacy from celebrities. But regardless of her past, I became most interested in Gould when I saw she had written her first novel, Friendship, this year.
Friendship is a story about two late twenty-something girls, Bev and Amy, in New York City. Both struggling financially and existentially, Bev and Amy are at a crossroads about their futures; their only stability is their stalwart friendship. Bev, a Midwesterner without any sense of career direction, left New York with her boyfriend several years ago, only to return alone, heartbroken, deep in MFA debt, and unemployed. Amy, an ambitious young woman who was shamed and scandalized by her previous job as an online gossip columnist, is now working for a mindless online blog which enables her to sit online and do nothing all day long. Both women slog through their lives incredibly unhappy with their choices but unable to see a brighter future.
And then the universe throws them some lemons. Bev, after a terrible one night stand with an asshole from the office she temps for, finds herself pregnant. Amy, in a foreseeable argument with her boss, quits her job without a savings or another plan to fall back on. Together, the girls attempt to make lemonade with their unfortunate situations. But Amy is selfish and unyielding. She expects too much from Bev, and Bev has other problems that her friendship with Amy to deal with. The two friends begin to realize that maybe friendship isn’t forever after all.
Short and quick, I finished Friendship over the span of two hours. While Gould writes fiction like reality and the novel had a Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. quality to it (if you haven’t read Adelle Waldman’s breakout novel, do so immediately). It is refreshingly honest about the twenty-something’s experience in the grand city of New York, with a hint of more struggle than success. But while Gould paints a rather bleak, albeit realistic picture, I found it hard to appreciate the characters’ hardships. Similar to watching the HBO show GIRLS, I wanted to throw something at these two young women, urging them (maybe violence is a bad idea, so maybe not throw) to do something. As Bev begins to take more initiative in her own life, I wanted to cheer, but in the end, I still felt wildly disappointed by her character.
The book is a great insight into the world in which we live, where people disappoint, jobs can be frustrating or boring, and friendships begin to fade. But the story felt as though it was missing something, some empathetic world view that explores the idea that yes, the world can suck but yes I will carry on, not just because I leave NYC or change my life circumstances, but because I want to be happy.
So overall, it’s a good read but not entirely satisfying. Take a few hours, read it, and let me know what you think.