Friday, August 12, 2005

Greek'ed Tragedy: Stephanie Klein, The Puff Daddy of Chic Lit

I turned to the
New York Times Fashion & Style section on Sunday July 16, 2005 to read a piece written by Stephanie Rosenbloom entitled "Reader, I dated him." In fact, the subject of the piece herself, Stephanie Klein tipped me off in advance of the impending piece via Instant Messenger that she was "ironically" the subject of another New York Times Fashion & Style piece. Her feigned anxiety and nervousness stemming from the fact they were interviewing her legions of fans and perhaps even her ex husband was not lost on me.

When I read it, despite my off hand knowledge of the numerous pieces written out there critiquing the blog,
Stephanie Rosenbloom, the writer for the NY Times, presumably does either (a) not use google search as part of her research or (b) is one of a gaggle of Stephanie Klein's female writer friends in her network or (c) her piece was the result of yet another Girl Crush. There are some quite pointed, poignant and otherwise fair critiques of her blog out in blog land, including one entitled Profiles in Douchebaggette'ery and still others questioning her originality as well as her overall smarminess. These critiques some how escaped mention in Ms. Rosenbloom's column since apparently all Stephanie has are "fans."Greek Tragedy has been critiqued widely by many bloggers on the internet for being nothing more than an utterly vapid and self indulgent rip off of Sex and the City and character Carrie Bradshaw, created by Candace Bushnell. One blogger satirized her blog in a piece entitled Soap Bloggera. There is also now even a smart parody of her site, see A Tale of Two Sisters. In essence, many have found Stephanie as shallow as a kiddie pool. One writer has even given a most accurate assessment as to Why Stephanie is Still Single:

"Here we have a clearly intelligent, reasonably attractive person, a talented and creative individual with a pretty excellent sense of humor. What is the problem? On the surface, this woman should be prime quality. Instead, she appears more to be a pathetic, sex driven, sadly tragic soul. It took a fair bit of reading to find out why as her site is huge. The answer lies here on the page "
men to avoid". Bloggers often like to make lists. If done well (so don’t look for one here), they can provide a realistic and often humorous insight into the person. This page explains to me why Stephanie is still single and having problems. At first, I thought this a humorous response to "The Emotionally Unavailable Alcoholic’s Guide to Holiday Romance" published in the blog Manhatten Transfer (itself a great bit of writing), but as I read a ton of her Posts, it became clear this was, in fact, her mantra.

So now I know. Bluntly, she is perhaps one of the more superficial, immature, shallow, money hungry, status seeking people I’ve met through blogs… and I fear a women seemingly devoid of a value system or boundaries. And that writer isn't the only one who thinks he can see past Klein's flowing red curls to her vapid heart; the sorority girls at
Barnard must have seen it too: "If she was as socially immature at Barnard as she is now," he wrote, "I can fully understand why she was the only woman in her class not to be invited to join a sorority. They had her number." see also Judge Roberts? Yawn. Stephanie Klein? Yowza!

The puff piece by
Stephanie Rosenbloom, however, came across as one written on Judith Regan or Regan Books stationary. In fact, after reading it, I asked Stephanie whether the publicity team over at Regan books was responsible for planting the story, since the story did not contain nary a critique. I realized the insensitivity of my comment when I made it but maybe I was just being "straight up and dirty." My sense was that the writer was very much one whom Stephanie Klein courted and developed a relationship. I almost wanted to ask whether Stephanie Rosenbloom was in fact a personal friend of Stephanie Klein. I suspect so, as Stephanie stated to me that, "they really like me over at the New York Times." Perhaps the manner in which Stephanie Klein and Heather Hunter networked the Times for their gab fess piece on getting schtupped by the same guy, Benjamin Wagner, at the same time explains the reason for their being on the same menstrual cycle. Maybe their internal fluids became mixed in the process? See, Traveling the Too- Much-Information Highway.

Networking the media leads to good results and pieces like those written about Stephanie Klein most recently illustrate that. Whether she or
Judith Regan worked the Times is irrelevant. This was very much the work of a skilled promoter or publicist. So this answers the question some writers have asked as to "Why I am not as famous as Stephanie Klein."

I met
Stephanie Klein about a year ago. I was introduced to her blog by a friend Ari and subsequently met her. I am aware of, have met and personally interacted with some of New York's best writers and journalists, or at least those covering the social beat who write about the social life and style undercurrent, like Warren St. John, Amy Sohn, Vanessa Grigoriadis, Richard Johnson, Ben Widdicombe, Rachel Kramer Bussel etc. So I was curious that perhaps here was yet another, New York Original in the form of little Stephanie Klein. Unfortunately, I have found Stephanie to be about as original as Ray's Pizza. But I am sure her response would be to kish mir in tuchis since she is the one with the huge advance and more fat pay days ahead.

Stephanie Klein, an Ivy League educated suburban girl of affluence, who lives near Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side, is a Creative Director at Young & Rubicam, a Madison Avenue advertising agency. This is a woman who is quite adept and skilled at how to properly package a product for the market place, including herself. This is what she is paid handsomely to do by day. Her web design skills and photography are clear evidence of that.

Stephanie Klein's Greek Tragedy is pre-packaged by design, a caricature of a New York City female based upon the fictional character Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. The Puff Daddy of the blogging world's chic lit set, her blog is a cliche, hallmark or post card to the heartland if you will. Arguably Stephanie's blog is designed to appeal to lonely people with no legitimate lives of their own and no real sense of life in Manhattan. Their voyeuristic tendencies are satisfied by a glimpse into what they fancy must be the “Sex and the City” life (redux or the reality version) as they sit on their couches eating bon bons wondering what it must be like to be Stephanie Klein.

Her stories are by design, however, so tragically ironic as well as terribly self absorbed and indulgent, all while masked in this hip downtown edginess of
Amy Sohn. Unfortunately, it does not make her as original as Amy Sohn. If she did not, however, come across so much as packaged sincerity and allowed herself to actually be what she was...it might be more credible and maybe in fact actually more interesting, but then again maybe it would not sell or be that interesting? It has also already actually been done by someone else. Perhaps her overnight success will allow her to develop an original voice, rather than remaining the Puff Daddy of Chic Lit, working off of the riff of other artists.

Stephanie is an attractive woman who knows how to make herself more attractive without looking like she is "working it." Much like the designer jeans thats come casually torn in the right places to highlight a woman's best attributes, Stephanie is acutely aware and tends to those little things that are supposed to accidentally make you look better. But as a friend said to me, are you sure it is not a bit more like those pre-fab homes which are put together rather quickly but lack the character, history and craftsmanship of the originals that they were modeled after? The originals being? Amy Sohn and Candace Bushnell, she said. Her persona seems rather contrived. It is.

When I first met
Stephanie, I was very much looking for reasons to like her. As much as I genuinely tried, for a number of reasons, I found it incredibly difficult to find any substance of character in her persona beyond the self promotion. Like a good Publicist or Director of Communications in a political campaign she was adept at remaining on message. I have found her to be very much a fictional person living a fictional life, one that is designed or choreographed for the purpose of creating an utterly fabulous blogging persona. At first I thought it was perhaps because I did not understand her, her blog or what she was about. I even questioned whether I was being unfair. So, I gave it time, spent more time in her company and yet my perception did not change. I could not find the soul of Stephanie Klein and in fact after a year, gave up looking for it.

Virtually from the the day I met
Stephanie, everything she does has been in pursuit of a book deal while trying to seem laid back or indifferent about it. That she succeeded in her mission with the book deal with Judith Regan is to her credit. That she pretends otherwise is well.......so Stephanie. Nothing happens in Stephanie's life by accident, except perhaps her husband walking out on their marriage. As her readers know the failed marriage and her ex husband has provided much of the fodder for her blog. But after X years, really give it up already. Move on. We have all had our hearts broken. To subject some dude to a daily written assault who for whatever reasons simply stopped loving you and walked out and otherwise ruined your Princess dreams of marriage, is kind of manic. It is simple, he was just not that into you. I even joked with her at one point, "you know Stephanie, in some ways you have your ex husband to thank for your success. You might have been destined for a mediocre marriage but now you seem destined to be the next big it girl." Judith Regan was quick to realize that in this reality tv era that the reincarnation of Carrie Bradshaw is a saleable product to advertisers. So while the intelligencia will have little respect for the gibberish on her blog, recognize that you and I are not her target market. The target market is rather those who have never been to New York City and perhaps only received a postcard or watched Sex and the City. Stephanie knows the game from the screenplay which she creates daily with her life to the one she is writing now for the TV Show for the book which has yet to be published.

If the life that she has created on her blog was not lifted from the pages of
Sex and the City I might have less of an issue with the latest incantation of Carrie Bradshaw in the form of Stephanie Klein. The only tragic irony in all of this is that there is a whole legion of chic lit bloggers who will continue to assault our consciousness since they may fancy themselves as the next Amy Sohn, Candace Bushnell or now "oy vey"...Stephanie Klein. It is tragic because many are still so wet behind the ears with so little real life experience and actual drama or angst in their lives to legitimately write about or have any genuine ability to reflect.

In a media driven society, content is king. Content is needed to sell advertising. Psuedo angst sells, especially when you know how to package it. What is more disturbing about
Stephanie Klein's Technorati ranking is that I have witnessed her rabid pursuit of media people and other bloggers, forging alliances and friendships purely with the goal of getting her blog linked and her "fame" spread. Anyone who does not add to that pursuit is largely irrelevant. Her notoriety stems from other female bloggers sensing that she must be it, linking her hoping to be mentioned or to get their comment in print online on her blog linking back to her site. Although one may wish to be careful because only polite syncophantic comments waxing philosophic about the beauty and elegance of the blogger's prose are allowed. Most who comment are typically bloggers themselves. Critics are routinely banned from posting.

Several months ago, I received a call and then numerous emails from
Stephanie to me when yet "horrors" another blogger ripped and dissed her, not on her blog but on his. Stephanie was frenetic. This Blagg Blogg guy had to be stopped of course. I hesitated for a second thinking, well gee, I do not read what you write because while I like you (or am trying to do so at least) he reads you and is simply a critic. People have told me how much I suck numerous times but life goes on. Nevertheless, since she was my "friend", I shot off a nasty email without thinking. His entry was smartly called Profiles in Douchebaggette-ery.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens in
New York gets broadcast around the world. The life and style of New Yorkers is an export. Myth becomes legend. The legend of Stephanie Klein is that her JAP Mythology passes for Greek Tragedy. That what she does is considered a greater or more profitable art form than those more talented is a sad reality and speaks volumes of the world that we live in today. Sometimes the greatest artists starve while the more commercially astute ones lead lives of grandeur. Stephanie is astute in that regard but after a year I have no idea who or what she is or stands for.

Do I hate
Stephanie Klein? No, most certainly not. I am but a critic of what I do not think qualifies to be considered a literary art form. As someone else who knows her well, however, said to me confidentially over cocktails in the Hamptons, "it is one thing to wish your friend's success but it is quite another when the person is really just not at all likeable. The idea that she represents the typical Manhattan chic is repulsive to me."

Many who know her and have been in her company have her ceaseless self promotional skills somewhat offensive.
Stephanie is always equipped with cards informing people who she is and that she is the next great thing but ironically despite the NY Times piece to the contrary, I have never been in her company and had anyone recognize her as someone "famous." Humility is not an adjective you would associate with Stephanie unless it is of the contrived and feigned sort you find in her musings on her blog. A conversation with Stephanie Klein, however, always leads back to uh well......Stephanie Klein of course. "You should check out my blog. I get X thousand hits per day." See "Straight up and Braggy, The Other Side of "Fame."

For those who are fans, enjoy your "reality" show and go buy her book, when it comes out. The most over hyped not yet author is coming to a book store near you. I will pass. If you made it this far, you may consider this my contribution to Stephanie Klein's
Technorati ranking.

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Zaftig Jones said...

This post just plain fucking depressed me. Depresed, I tell you. Fucking depressed.

Thanks for making me think.

Esther Kustanowitz said...

I thought this was a very interesting, and very careful analysis...not at all depressing. And yes, I made it all the way to the end. But I think lots of us envy SK's "luck" professionally, even if we don't envy her life experiences...