Since this is my last weekend on the site until I return, begging for a job as James Del's assistant, I've invited some friends to jam with me. Joe Coscarelli is a young writer with Things To Say. Joe?
"These English majors wanna be some super genius novelists/ They end up music journalists/ chicks ain't that into it," noted Craig Finn in 1990, as the lead singer of Lifter Puller. Finn went on to front The Hold Steady; music journalists went on to write listicles. I was a child. "Touch My Stuff," indeed. (Here, I hoped to link to a YouTube video of the song, as blogs do. As it turns out, the only version of it that exists is an acoustic cover by a round boy in a small dorm room. This means something.)
No one is listening.
But this version is easier to understand.
Finn's sentiment sounds outdated now in a post-David Foster Wallace era. Or at least an era in which nobody sincerely cares about Chuck Klosterman anymore.
Aspiring novelists are archaic. I know this because in four years of higher education, no one ever offered to show me a manuscript, but I've seen more blogs than bongs. The bearded, bespectacled Pavement fans Finn was singing about are unemployed or out of touch. Or dead. No one in their early twenties wants to be a music journalist—that would be absurd. These English majors want to be some super genius bloggers. They end up unpaid interns.
Aspiring to write on the internet is like aspiring to shred on Guitar Hero. The best part of both is wearing your pajamas. The worst part is the tense shoulders.
This past week, online, kids like me made a push for employment. It was sad, sloppy and sweet. It was transparent, but necessary, and tangentially related to the New Niceness we heard so much about. Hamilton Nolan wrote eloquently of the media via the internet and its "currency of 'friends,'" and he spoke of the days when "feisty young upstarts believed they could circumvent the existing calcified media power structure via the amazing unfettered internet."
My friends and I aren't that feisty.
Pebbles are easier to throw at thrones than rocks because you can grab a whole handful and they fit in 140 characters. Plus, we wouldn't want to jeopardize any job prospect, however slight. Today, it's kissing ass. Observe:
A senior at Columbia edits a semi-popular blog; it doesn't pay. Said senior writes a profile for The Awl; it doesn't pay, but it gets more comments. The piece is an employment-oriented personal ad for a talented, eager and obsessive Midwesterner, but a reader calls it a "wet kiss (with tongue) to Gawker." The subject is seeking full-time employment from The Empire, the one you're reading, or a similar entity. Possibly the author is too? It was suggested. Everyone involved is a total sweetheart. They need to pay their rent and they don't have a manuscript.
Elsewhere, but really in the same place, a blogger-turned-journalist blogs advice to Millenials with misguided dreams of working in media. She was vexed, you see, with a boy who graduated from an Ivy "expecting to easily find work at a magazine." Turns out, he works for this website, too, if you can call it work, as he doesn't receive any compensation. He is frustrated and he is frustrating: he should "forget about the 'media internships' and 'high-end retail' jobs and do something else, where he will actually make some money and gain some life experience, and that does not include starting a Tumblr."
Get off my internets!
Here is what we are doing: We 'follow' writers we like, in multiple senses, in hopes of them, for some reason, following back. We link to posts they write, often. We tend to the shaft. We disagree with them, respectfully, in hopes of a counter-argument. In hopes of being discovered. We work for free. We blog when they instant message us, asking about our internships. We compliment how cute their kids are. We 'like' them, we really 'like' them. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his followers count. Replies are encouraging; @'s are encouraging. It is all about ego and misplaced hero worship and low expectations. And it doesn't come with a paycheck.
But it is relatively easy, and the risks are not great, assuming your parents will subsidize your rent, or the hours at your shitty day job aren't too bad, plus the pay is pretty good. And at that internship, your boss keeps promising he's figuring out a way to pay you soon. Maybe by the time you graduate, there will be money in the budget for a real assistant's position, says your boss at that other internship. And in the meantime it's the bylines and the comments and sometimes the parties. David Carr retweeted you that one time and that was pretty heartening. "It ain't just a money thing/ It's a question of community," Finn sang. "The liberty, the ecstasy, the love, the drugs, the unity." Like the internet, really.
It's pathetic when we do this to ourselves and whether it even works remains unseen. But is this even what we really want? The ones who came before us insist it's not, and they drink a lot. [Ed. They also do way too much blow for people their age. Truth.] But on some minuscule level that's like an actor rejecting fame. If I would've known it was going to be like this...
The aspiring media kids know what I mean. To the rest of you, I want you to know that this generation isn't doomed yet. We're not all like this, I promise. The entitled Ivy Leaguers giving nauseating quotes to Newsweek just need something to do while their girlfriends are at med school. Plenty of my peers are doing really well on the LSAT and at investment banks, continuing in the proud tradition of fucking this country somewhere very uncomfortable. They're just not broadcasting it, or they're only on Facebook. They will hold down respectable jobs and make their parents proud. They will make the money and we'll marry them. Whenever you need a break from this, stop fucking reading Gawker. Close the tab and go outside. Get off your Tumblr. Do something.
Which is all to say: tomorrow I'm going to start my novel.
Joe Coscarelli used to slave under the well-regarded penis of Dan "Slim Shady" Abrams as the Weekend Editor at Mediaite before being like "peace I'm out this bitch." I also hired him to do stuff at BlackBook once. I never really edited him. I didn't here. You can go ahead and re-tweet him, but neither one of us gives a shit.
He knows you might think this is meta. It isn't.