Curiosity will presumably bring lots of readers to Emily Gould's debut novel, Friendship. Gould earned a certain level of internet notoriety (neteriety?) as a star blogger for Gawker, back when Gawker was a publishing-industry gossip blog and not an edgier Huffington Post. One of the two main characters in Friendship, Amy, has a job as an editor for Yidster ("the third-most-popular online destination for cultural coverage with a modern Jewish angle"), where every day she chooses "a few posts from other blogs for [her employees] to, er, reimagine" and works at the whim of a dilettantish wealthy man who has no idea how blogs are supposed to function. Everybody loves romans à clef, especially when the à clef is cracking open a media outlet that leered at everyone else's dirty laundry for years.
But a roman à clef can only go so far on curiosity. There was interest in The Last Magazine, the novel about magazine culture written by the late Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Hastings, until the first people to get their hands on the book realized it didn't have much to offer besides thinly veiled media gossip. Luckily, Gould isn't interested in turning her novel into a tell-all; Yidster is summarily dismissed early on in the book, after an ill-advised foray into vlogging is cut short by a sudden burst of uncharacteristic dignity on Amy's part.
Friendship is interested—almost single-mindedly so—in the friendship between Amy and her friend Bev, two women who are in the process of discovering that life as 30-year-old women in New York City is vastly different than it was as twentyish-year-old women in New York City. The poverty earned from a career in the publishing industry is no longer charming or noble; the string of half-assed relationships doesn't seem very romantic anymore.
Amy and Bev slide down the ladder of success together, somehow becoming more and more undesirable to prospective employers with every passing day. And then one of them makes a choice that tosses her squarely into adulthood, and the fantasy they constructed together of two young women against the big city rolls over and dies all at once. Friendship is refreshing in part because it's hugely uninterested in the men in Amy and Bev's lives; they're blurry figures, pushed over to the periphery to marinate in their monstrous desires or their bland hopes of commitment. They're not poorly sketched—they just barely matter to the women, and so they barely matter to us.
Gould's prose isn't especially ornate or interested in reflection. She tends toward short, declarative sentences, and she trusts the emotion to seep between simple nouns and verbs. Friendship is a positive step in Gould's evolution as a writer; the leap from nonfiction to fiction gave her permission to embrace an earnestness that previously escaped her. But Friendship does feel like Gould's final thesis statement on a certain perspective; it would be a delight to read future efforts from her that stretched even further out of her skin, entirely away from the relative safety of blogging and New York and youth.