Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Man Storms Off Internet: Goodbye, Chris Jones!

Esquire writer Chris Jones has killed his blog. This was the last straw for him: a Tumblr post by Deadspin writer Jack Dickey, who put side-by-side excerpts of pieces on Robert Caro by Jones and by Charles McGrath—with the headline "Guess Which One Of These Guys Was Pissy About Not Winning A National Magazine Award?" Last straws are funny things.

"Of course, it's a jab at the post I wrote here about my disappointment about not getting nominated for an Ellie for my Roger Ebert profile. Of everything I’ve written here, nothing has haunted me more. It’s been more than a year, and someone still makes a reference to it at least once a week," Jones writes. "I was honest about my disappointment, because every writer I know suffers disappointments, and we’re supposed to be honest, and we’re all in this together." This is true! He was honest about his disappointment. That honesty, and its expression, was off-putting. "I've always kept score," he wrote back then. Does anyone like a person who's told you that he's keeping score?

The thing that's frustrating about Jones is that he's a universalizer; he doesn't understand that some of us think it's actually bad to keep score. (His recent terribly offputting thing about how women didn't sex him right was another example of how the internal monologue sometimes doesn't express well publicly. It was gross and crude and unlikeable. It was another way in which Chris Jones smells like a bully—even though he hasn't even done any actual bullying! Except… when he has.)

So once you tell everyone that you're keeping score, that you're in this as a competition, well, then we all know that you're on your own side, and many of us then have no interest in extending any camaraderie to you. You're just another Tracy Flick, at best. You're out for you.

That he wrote about taking "a rapid-fire bolt through the stages of grief" over not being nominated for an award is, in a way, an admirable thing to admit. It's a good thing for us to know about you. It's also an overt declaration that we're not on the same team. Shutting down a blog is also another specific kind of personality expression. "It's just not worth it" is the explanation of a child who feels he's been misunderstood. That seems like the summation of a failure of the use of words.

Thousands of writers blog without feeling they had to take down everything they've written. But some do have to. So goodbye, Chris Jones' blog. You were a venue that allowed Chris Jones to do a disservice to himself, and so it's time for you to go.

Update: He's since deleted his farewell post; it can be found here and here in two screenshotted parts.

24 Comments / Post A Comment

Jay Kang (#7,344)

I always wished Carles would take on Chris Jones.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

"It's nice, too, when you don't treat his writing like it's battery acid."

lawyergay (#220)

The following sentiment is frankly sexist: Only an asshole dude would run around publicly crying about this and then behave like a tantrummy dick on the way out.

Now gather 'round, kids, and hark to my tale of hubris and petulance that will curl your Moleskine and fry your MacBook Air: Stephen Dixon, the author of the critically acclaimed "Frog" (nominated for a National Book Award in 1991), among other works, was so frustrated at never having published in the New Yorker that he submitted a story to them with a cover letter explaining that if they didn't publish him this time, he would never submit anything to them again. Guess what happened?

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

He ended up a staff writer for a dying men's mag?

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@SidAndFinancy And his name is Mitch Cumstein.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@lawyergay I read a Stephen Dixon story once. Once.

pepper (#676)

He already won two – they don't give those things out like cocktail peanuts, unless you happen to be Gopnik or Langewiesche. Also, nobody who doesn't actually work in magazines even knows what they are.

joeclark (#651)

Burning down one’s Library of Alexandria endears one poorly to his children and literary executors. What if we found every issue of Esquire and ripped out his articles? (This actually happens, albeit rarely, in books where a court injunction is granted after publication.)

Screen Name (#2,416)

You think I don't know the score? Really? Because I know. Oh, that's right. I know the score. Because I keep the score, baby. That's right. I'm a goddamned scorekeeper. I'm serious. Wait, you honestly believe I don't keep score? Because I'm being completely honest with you. I keep score. I shit you not. I am keeping score right this very minute. Oh yes I am. What? You think I can't talk to you and keep score at the same time? Please. I keep score in my sleep. You know how some people get up every day and go to work and shuffle papers or dig ditches or whatever? Well, I do the same thing, but for scores. That's right. I keep score for a motherfucking living, man. How? Like everybody else, that's how. It's all the same; New York, Boston, Philly, L.A. Even Cleveland. Don't matter. Everybody keeps score the same. Got to. Let me show you. See, whenever the ball goes through the net? I push a button. Like this. That's for one point. This one here? For two. Now sometimes, if the shot is behind that dark blue arc out there? No, the farther one. I press this button. That's for three. But mostly it's the two button. That's probably why it looks all worn down compared to the others. That's pretty much it. Alright, halftime's almost over. I gotta focus. Told you I keep score though, didn't I?

macartney (#1,889)

This is strange because the Esquire piece was, in fact, the better of the two.

@macartney I found it awful and embarrassing in the way that Esquire pieces often are.

macartney (#1,889)

@Shaun Robinson@facebook As an avid Bob Caro fan who is EAGERLY awaiting Vol. 4, it was the more enjoyable, insightful of the two. It was the one I've recommended to people who didn't want to read both. It was the one that made me more excited for the new book. The Times Mag piece was staid and felt repackaged from 2002.

GAGR. (Goodbye And Good Riddance. Should we make that happen?)

Printersanonymous (#232,087)

The more self-entitled articles and public comments/feuds of his I come across, the more I feel like he should divorce his current spouse and marry Katie Rophie. After perusing that utter trash Tina Brown splashed across the cover of Newsweek, I would assume that she learned a few things while "researching" and be able to put it to rest once and for all that he's the one who sucks in bed. Then they could wallow in one another's victim complexes. Bonus for their epic ego-driven fights keeping them both out of print for a while.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Once you are down to the "I was just being honest" card you are pretty much done as a jerk. Might as well shut it down.

alexanderbasek (#4,534)

I found his story about Robert Caro escaping the zoo in Ohio very moving, though.

HiredGoons (#603)

It's hard for me to watch American Idol because I have perfect pitch.

Matt (#26)


If Choire doesn't start liking my comments, I'm outta here.

hockeymom (#143)

People who may feel grief:
1. Roger Ebert
2. The guy who wrote about Roger Ebert

Hmmm…these things do not seem equal.

ep (#8,509)

Yikes! I hope the internet can find somebody to fill this position. Surely there was a plan in place in case something like this ever happened? I mean, it's not like you can just click around and find this personality just anywhere out there. On the internet. Or the world. Or whatever.

Funny thing is that he sometimes almost realizes that he's universalizing. From May 2011, in the introduction to his Drew Magary (Deadspin again!) conversation (http://sonofboldventure.blogspot.ca/2011/05/five-for-writing-drew-magary.html)

"I like to think writing is IMPORTANT, because it’s what I do. But maybe, when you strip it right down to its most basic elements, it’s just putting words in an entertaining order in exchange for money. Reading this made me wonder whether I’ve been squeezing the bat a little too hard lately."

Of course, even then, he's really just universalizing himself. I've liked some of his writing, but I feel he's been heading to this conclusion ever more rapidly — or maybe I just wasn't paying attention.
For the record, I thought his Caro profile and the Times Magazine's were, overall, each fine, each in the tone for which they are known.

Alvin (#232,621)

Isn't the anger at Jones coming from somewhere else? The things he's charged with here–universalizing and competitiveness–are the standard for writers of fiction and non-fiction, among other people. Anne Lamont, for example, writes about her jealousies in "Bird by Bird," and audiences find it funny and endearing. And pretty much all writers (Twain, Cisneros, Carol Oates, etc.) mine their personal experience to present a picture that resonates with many (but never all) people. So if these are the worst things you can say about Jones, he's got nothing to worry about. Ditto on that Deadspin "critique," which never explains why he prefers one writer over the other. With cheap shots like these, it's a wonder anyone keeps writing these days.

Post a Comment