Why Do we Like Marie Calloway?
This is a good question to ask because: she has written only four stories and has appeared on Vice and has had requests from agents to represent her. Even though many writers in the online literary world, such as Elizabeth Ellen or Sam Pink have been writing for years before good things started to happen. And I don’t know if either of them even have agents.
So what is about Marie Calloway’s stories that make them so desired? Why would an agent assume she could write a book that would sell 100s of thousands?
To use Occam’s Razor to get to the simplest explanation, which I think explains the agent: is that Marie Calloway’s writing is about a young girl having sex. Which people love. Men love imagining a young woman having sex and young women want to read about other young women having sex. The writing is sensational, she uses famous people’s names, a young woman/girl has sex, she goes to fabulous cities like New York City or London. She mentions porn’s influence on male sexual behavior. She has sex with an older slightly famous writer who is married. She loses her virginity before marriage, has promiscuous sex. She is topical, she is sexual. She is Star/Enquirer magazine/Harlequin mixed with alt-lit.
And to define sensational literature with non-sensational literature: Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea would be a perfect example, The Old and The Sea is about “An old Cuban guy who goes fishing” but somehow Hemingway takes something that should be really boring and makes it into a metaphor for human existence.
Which to me is the test of a writer, can you write about something that is completely anti-topical and make a story out of it. Of course my most famous book is The Human War which is about the Iraq War. So I know all about the impact of topical writing and I am guilty of it also.
But reducing Marie Calloway’s stories to mere pornography is too simplistic; it doesn’t get to the root of it.
Marie Calloway’s stories all contain something original in them, something people don’t usually write about in great depth. She has introduced the female character that is incapable of having normal sex, incapable of love and obnoxious.
When a person reads the scene in Adrian Brody at the end when the girl starts crying to sex. You begin to realize that person is a little nuts. Because the only people that cry during sex are crazy people. The audience thinks, “This person is fucked, who behaves like this?”
Her obsession with her own looks: in Losing my Virginity she goes to the bathroom after sex and just stares at the mirror obsessing over her own looks. There is a man in the bedroom, he just had sex with you, he obviously thinks you’re attractive. He obviously finds you endearing in some way.
Then the epiphany of Losing my Virginity is the girl telling herself that she will never love anyone like that again or have as good as sex again. Which to anyone above 30, you can’t stop laughing, because you know the best sex and the best love came long after losing your virginity.
In Jeremy Lin it is even more insane, the female as creeper. Which is never written about. A creepy girl comes to New York City which is the same plot as Adrian Brody, but this time she meets an older writer that doesn’t want to have sex with her. So she gets angry and acts out and says impolite things to get revenge. The female lead character in Jeremy Lin is terribly obnoxious. The Jeremy Lin character publishes the woman’s story, then invites her to do a reading. He has been polite, even nice. But the lead female character comes to New York City and obsesses over Jeremy Lin. And she just gets creepier and creepier the whole story. Her obsession is not Jeremy Lin, but her need to be paid attention to by a particular person. You want to say to her, “You are in New York City, it is a really nice city, you are doing a reading in New York City, think about how you need to do a good reading.” But instead the character obsesses over a single human. It is anti-feminist, instead of the woman thinking about how she should be doing a good job to represent her work; she depends on a man to give her validation. It reveals an obvious contradiction in the character; she desperately wants to be a feminist but at the same time depends greatly on the approval of males.
And then at the end the epiphany is given to the female character by a male character, the epiphany comes in an email, it says, “ “I don’t think you understand him. You expect him to see you as a sex object, but he sees you as a person, and as a writer. You should stop thinking of sex as your best thing and realize, like Jeremy has, that writing is your best thing.”
The epiphany is really funny because Jeremy Lin didn’t fuck her because he was married or interested in the blond girl at the reading. And the fact that she was being so obnoxious.
But maybe you are supposed to assume that the lead character finally found a man that wouldn’t fuck her, and maybe she knows now that not every man is not out to fuck. And this creates some sort of liberation for her, that not all men are the same.
The fascinating thing about Marie Calloway’s stories are not that they are “good.” But that they are stories about a female train-wreck, a creeper, a woman that gets obsessed with boys and her looks, and who lacks any moral component. Her female characters are so fucking ugly we have to keep looking. But lest we forget Dostoevsky’s Underground Notes, a character that is putrid and pathetic excites us in that story. There is just something exciting about a pathetic person being the star of a story.
[NOAH CICERO has published some books and now lives in Korea. Google him if you want to know more.]