I know that the common thing to say these days is that the internet is trash – as you read this on the internet – but without the internet, would we have Roxane Gay and Anne Helen Petersen and Allison P Davis and Jessica Pressler and Caity Weaver and so many wonderful writers, who are women, sharing their work with us.. ? Like our beloved Taffy Brodesser-Akner? As we’ve said many times here at LaineyGossip, we rush to read new Taffy. And Jia Tolentino is on that list too.
Jia’s been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2016 so, basically, when she was around 27. David Remnick, editor-in-chief, compares Jia to Joan Didion:
“You look at Joan Didion when she was young—suddenly there was this voice that seemed new and distinct and was talking straight at you. Jia’s a very different sort of writer in terms of temperament, but the effect is similarly startling and fresh.”
I mean, David Remnick, the editor-in-chief of THE NEW YORKER isn’t going to throw Joan Didion’s name around carelessly, you know? And that’s just one of the quotes included in a new profile of Jia Tolentino published in the new issue of ELLE written by Molly Langmuir. Jia’s book of essays, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, comes out on August 6th (I know I sound like a brat but… why hasn’t anyone sent me a copy yet?!) and it’s been blurbed by none other than Zadie Smith and Rebecca Solnit. To be clear, this is her debut, and already she’s getting quotes from David Remnick, Zadie Smith, and Rebecca Solnit. The point is, Jia is seen as a wunderkid in writing circles and there is already a mythology in place.
Molly Langmuir’s piece addresses the mythology – that Jia requires little to no editing, that she’s never missed a deadline, the Peace Corps, the writing awards, the impressive output that she’s capable of – and also adds to it. I’m not sure by the end of the article if I can say I know her. At the same time, I don’t know that I would want it any other way. Because are geniuses ever really knowable? And are geniuses often women? Jia’s intention may not be to be seen as a mystery and I can’t imagine she’s out here flexing that she’s a genius, but as she tells Molly, “The ways in which our identities position us in the world are complicated. And we’re in an age where everything is shifting. There has to be writing that is flexible enough to accommodate all these things existing, often at once.” As she approaches the release of her first book, adding “published author” to her list of accomplishments, this is the label that is becoming attached to her, that exists outside of her and around her: an exceptional, once in a generation writer genius whom Rebecca Solnit calls “the best young essayist at work in the United States”.
Again, I doubt that this is a deliberate self-branding on Jia’s part but the magic here is that she has extensively explored identity in her writing, wrestling with how identity is layered by several lenses both internal and external. The key to me, though, in Rebecca Solnit’s quote can be found in two words: “at work”. She doesn’t say that Jia Tolentino is the best young essayist in the United States, she says that Jia Tolentino is the best young essayist AT WORK in the United States. And that’s what makes it all the more thrilling – that there will be more work to come and more opportunity to continue interrogating identity, her own and ours at the same time.
Click here to read Molly Langmuir’s profile of Jia Tolentino for ELLE.
Yours in gossip,