ON GAWKER VS. BAE2012 EDITOR DAVID BROOKS:
"I love reading the BAE series; each year’s edition sits wrapped under my Christmas tree, each essay within, its own nested gift. But I also love reading Gawker. The site brews my cynicism and outrage (the instant coffees of emotions) and inspires my inclinations towards social activism, while allowing me to remain entirely passive and procrastinatory. It seduces me and so this is my problem: Gawker really, really doesn’t like David Brooks. And so I’ve found, neither do I.
"But it also seems worth noting that the attributes on which the website most frequently wants to skewer Brooks—that he’s a bit of a gasbag who populates his writing with truisms and frames his social science with off-the-cuff stories instead of actual data—are the very qualities which we praise the essayist for possessing: the anecdotal, the digressive, the carefree lack of expertise.
"And in his analysis of the halcyon years of the mid-20th century American essay, Brooks notes 'the best essays…had lost the pomposity while retaining some grandeur and scope. They were rigorous without being narrow and academic. They were polemical without being partisan. They were countercultural without being sloppy. They were reckless but also learned.' Try aligning that—'countercultural without being sloppy'—with Gawker’s content, and you can score a point for Brooks."
ON THE ESSAYIST AS FRIEND:
"I love the idea of the essayist as friend and conversationalist dispensing anecdotal knowledge, and I love the essayist writing for a we, because after all a you is just trying to reach an I and we’re in this together. But sometimes I wonder what friendly conversationalists might hide. For the world also contains false friends and I grow suspicious of essays that pat me paternally on the shoulders and tell me they know what’s good for me. "
ON THE ESSAYIST AS LOVER:
"Here's Doty again: 'When you have a lot of sex, sex becomes increasingly less narrative.' If that’s true, why can’t it also be the case for when we have a lot of essays? "