maria popova’s work feels so pedestrian to me–which bums me out; i might enjoy it more if i would let the details go. but I can’t! the reality she tries to push has so many weird holes in it.
this came to some clarity over a snappy little twitter conversation with some friends, one of whom (oddly?) seems to think a few people criticize her because they’re envious, and because she’s a woman. not me: i bitch because her assertions are hilarious and implausible. just like paul ryan and his fake nine-percent body fat and fake marathon results. you know? the basis is kind of factual, the telling of it is probably bullshit.
su broke this down in mathematical terms. maria says in the sidebar of her site that it takes 450+ hours monthly of her time to curate and edit the fucker, which means she’s working on brainpickings between 15 and 16 hours per day. every bio statement she’s put out there has multiple bylines at multiple publications, so she has more than one job, one of which looks to be at least partially officey (meaning semi-regular hours). so by those numbers alone? i don’t buy it.
she later details her day here, and it is just precious how bad she wants us to believe that she is on the go and plugged in and with it. the first super-bullshitty thing she says is that she is doing sprints on an elliptical while reading longform pieces on her ipad. i read that sentence, and i was like, “???”
if you run, you know that doesn’t make any physical sense. you don’t sprint on an elliptical. you physically cannot sprint on one. a sprint relies upon you being able to bounce yourself forward using a part of the foot that’s strapped into an pedal. even if you were, hypothetically, moving fast enough to equal a sprint-like speed, it’d be more motion than could be tolerated for reading. you’d be using your upper body to balance while you’re charging along like an antelope, and that certainly makes it impossible to select text, copy and paste it into evernote, and file items using apple’s fat-fingered iOS interface. i mean, she says she’s using evernote to catalog this shit while she’s sprinting. so she’s obviously exaggerating, and i’m not sure why. does she want us to be certain that she’s so fucked up and ADHD that she can’t pay enough attention to either curation or running to do either very well?
at the end of the piece she claims to read and review 10-20 books per week. per week. what the fuck.
here’s another hilarious piece, in which she claims to work barefoot, standing on a wobble board. she also claims to do more push-ups in a minute than most people can, and also namedrops that she’s friends with Debbie Millman. this is not the writing of someone deeply engaged in her life, this is a person who is deeply engaged in what other people think of her life.
so, back to la la land. let’s assume that she actually does work about 20 hours daily. it’s nuts, but whatever, let’s accept her bullshit at face value. if she’s curating and reading and absorbing that much crap, where does she have the time to do any of her jobs well? she’s proven she’s a shitty blogger: here’s someone correcting one of her articles, which is just factually incorrect.
my hunch is that she has an idea, and then googles for source material, and totally fails in backing it up with real research. i say this because the source she’s wholesale copied her material from, goodreads, regularly appears as a top result for quotes from notable authors, and i get the idea that she’s looked for a hesse quote she likes and landed there–but then never checked to make sure the information is correct.
i’d also like to point out that she doesn’t ever link to, or credit, the goodreads page, which she has copied word for word, which is in total opposition to her silly creators’ code thingy. on top of all that, she uses the post as a springboard for her amazon affiliates account, not to mention four other posts of her own, which is selfish in the face of not crediting a source; it just indicates she’s more interested in her own traffic than exposing her readers to great sites–which goodreads is.
she also makes a hilarious sentence in the hesse post, something about “life’s most essential livingness,” and, what is that, anyway? i don’t know. does maria? or is she just banging together pretty words that sound vast to her?
my personal suspicion is in the clues she leaves in her choices: her taste is totally un-special, and the values reflected in her pieces often contradict each other. she’s looking for things that make you go, “oooo, cool” but she never strings those together into a coherent worldview.
for example: in the hesse post she talks about the fragility of life in presence of technology. not one week later, she posts a book review about the genius of polaroid photography–which was some of the most ecologically damaging chemistry ever created. for her to not connect those two clearly opposed ideas and make some comment about them? isn’t that what curation is? super weird.