Soon after, Ms. Calloway began corresponding with Mr. Brody, 40, a writer and editor who was a scholar of Internet micro-celebrity.
If Mr. Lin was the predominant ego of the “Internet writing subculture,” as Ms. Calloway called it, Mr. Brody was its superego.
“I’m glad you liked my writing,” Ms. Calloway wrote to Mr. Brody early in their correspondence. “I wondered if you would hate it since it could be seen as the self-absorbed narcissism you write about a lot.”
“Read your pieces as critiques of narcissism and self-absorption,” he replied, “which are hard to make without embodying them to the nth degree.”
Gawker media owner Nick Denton once said the same thing about his former employee Emily Gould, after “Exposed,” her memoir of writing about her personal life online, was published in The New York Times Magazine.
Not suprisingly, Ms. Gould was also intrigued by “Adrien Brody.” She published an essay on her blog Emily Magazine that sought to locate writing like Ms. Calloway’s—explicitly personal, borderline self-destructive first-person relationship stories—in a literary tradition that included Chris Kraus, Katha Pollitt and, well, Ms. Gould.
The same day, Muumuu House, Mr. Lin’s publishing company, republished Ms. Calloway’s essay as fiction, removing the photos and dubbing the writer “Adrien Brody.”
Whether “Adrien Brody” represented a feminist sub-genre ignored by male critics and academics or just a writerly strain of retribution, Ms. Gould was onto something.
The next week, coincidentally, The New York Post wrote a series of items about an affair between Salman Rushdie and Devorah Rose, the self-made socialite editor of Social Life magazine. When Mr. Rushdie abruptly cut off contact and publicly denied their relationship, Ms. Rose forwarded their Facebook correspondence to Page Six, revealing a less eloquent side of Mr. Rushdie. (“You look so gorgeous & hottt,” he had told her.)
Eventually, Ms. Calloway wrote to Ms. Gould looking for advice. Ms. Gould advised her to find the balance between self-exploitation and self-censorship. “Whenever you write about yourself you hover between those poles,” she wrote.
Three days later, Ms. Calloway deleted her Tumblr. “Dislike being ‘watched,’” she wrote.
Although Ms. Gould told The Observer she was ethically and aesthetically “horrified” by elements of “Adrien Brody,” she thinks that horror is worth investigating. “Why do women who aren’t afraid to humiliate themselves appall us so much, and why do we rush to find superficial reasons to dismiss them (‘she’s crazy’ ‘she’s a narcissist’ ‘she’s young’ ‘she’s a famewhore’)?” Ms. Gould wrote The Observer in an e-mail.
“I think in part because they pose a threat to the social order, which relies on women’s embarrassment to keep them either silent or writing in socially accepted modes.”
Ms. Calloway agreed. She said that she writes to give meaning and permanence to female subjectivity.
“I feel sad about the idea of events happening and having a big emotional impact on me, and then just passing by and having no significance,” she told The Observer.
Before they stopped talking, Mr. Brody was Ms. Calloway’s most sensitive critic. He believed there was more to Ms. Calloway than an insecure young woman desperate for attention. He called her ambivalence “an elaborate strategy of purification, to blend honesty and revulsion until they are no longer separable.”