This is a funny question to get because that piece has been on my mind a lot lately. It was published around this time three years ago and for whatever reason I tend to think about it around its anniversary. The calendar forces some people to perpetually retread that car crash that nearly killed them or the time their dog ran away or the night of a loved one’s death or the season of a terrible breakup; I have this goofy essay.
To directly answer your question: Yes, I got a lot of feedback. I think most of the original comments are still intact, though the Paste website has redesigned a few times since then and I seem to remember some amount of comments being lost at some point. After the story ran, Flavorwire rounded up and published responses from a number of other music writers, though that post now seems to be broken; from what I remember, some responses were generally supportive/in agreement, and a few were really frustrating because it was obvious that the writers had wholly misinterpreted what I wrote. I addressed some of those points in this incredibly long rebuttal, which I’m still surprised I got the OK to publish—though I was on a very long leash at Paste pretty much the whole time I was on staff (see also: me getting the OK to write the 8,000 [!!!] word essay to begin with).
There was other stuff, too—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr posts. I followed the responses pretty closely. It was a mix of good and bad, though of course I fixated mostly on the bad. I remember having a feeling that I should keep my distance from it all, but hadn’t really gone through the fire of writing something that “big” on the internet before. I felt like since I had “started a dialogue” I should try to keep up with and participate in that dialogue, and I’m not sure now how well that worked, for “the dialogue” or for me. My brainspace was not pretty for a while after the story ran. I got a lot of positive, supportive, engaging responses, but there was a huge amount of hate, too—I vaguely recall an ONTD commenter threatening to “stab me in the cunt”? (You could probably find that somewhere in the comments here, if you really care.) Some posters on a music message board Googled my name and found a story written about me in 2006 for my college’s recruiting website; the story featured a super super dorky photo of me fake-reading the student newspaper in the library, and this photo was posted to the message-board with a caption like, “This is the author of this story.” Which was almost more horrible than having a stranger on LiveJournal threatening to rape me.
Three years later, I still get an occasional email about the story (mostly positive, fortunately). I’ve heard from more than a couple of women around my age or younger who’ve told me that the piece was big for them because it was by a female writer, that it gave them a nudge to start writing themselves. I’ve heard from some folks in bands who’ve told me it was important for them, too, in thinking about their careers. And that’s just… I think that’s the best you can hope for, as a writer, right? Or at least it’s the best I can ever hope for—that I could write something that helped make somebody’s life better, in some small way.
So, yeah. In some ways I’m still very proud of the story, but in many other ways I wish it was something I could blotch out completely. Just opening up the page on my browser to link it here was kind of painful. There’s a lot that I don’t like about it, stuff I cringe to even think about now. Even three years later there are passages I think of occasionally and replay over and over and over in my head until I’m fully convinced I’m an idiot who should never be let out of the house and/or allowed near a keyboard again. I understand that this is a natural side-effect of developing a writing career, and that in fact it would be not a good thing if I wasn’t always trying to get better and always looking back on works of the past with some sense of what I could do better, but that doesn’t make it any less painful or awkward.
A lot of the writing now strikes me as ridiculous, and a lot of the thinking that informed the piece, I think, is deeply flawed (I think I did a particularly bad job at proving the “historical” link between “punk” and “indie”—it seemed real to me, at the time, but I seem to remember some people with far more knowledge of music history saying it wasn’t quite so linear or direct). There were tonal problems—or rather, there were parts where I thought it was obvious that I was being performatively, winkingly maudlin, but the volume of feedback I got lamenting my “po-faced”-ness was my lesson in the nuances of… well, nuance. Overall I think the essay is mostly just way way overblown, overwritten, under-edited and somehow both over- and under-reasoned, to the detriment of the real kernel of the idea there, which was mostly a semantic one, at its core. And apparently people don’t love semantic discussions! Especially on the internet! That’s maybe the main thing I learned.
It’s possible that I’m being too hard on it, that it’s less glaringly purple and noob-y than I remember, but I think a few more years will have to pass before I can bring myself to give it a fair read again. It has occurred to me that there are probably some people out there who are still mad about the piece, who still think of me as the clearly-very-wrong idiot who wrote it, and I would just like to let them know that it’s OK, they can give up the ghost, move on with their lives, and know that I have spent at least as much time hating myself as they’ve spent hating me. Next step is, I guess, giving myself permission to move on? We’ll see how that goes.