An essay about an Instagram influencer (note to readers over 40: we have no idea what that means either) who failed to deliver on a $375,000 book deal has caused Book Twitter to lose its collective mind.

On Tuesday, the Cut published an essay by book critic Natalie Beach about her friendship with Caroline Calloway, a wealthy, popular Instagram user who parlayed her fame on the social network into a deal with Flatiron Books.

Beach says Calloway hired her to collaborate on the book, but eventually abandoned the project, which led, in part, to the dissolution of their friendship.

The essay caught the attention of literary Twitter, which reacted with a mixture of fascination and revulsion.

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“This was... quite a white girl journey,” noted author Roxane Gay. “And rather depressing.”

Novelist Jennifer Weiner tweeted that the essay didn’t make the best advertisement for New York University, which Beach and Calloway both attended. “Shout-out to my fellow Gen-X parents, whose only thought on reading the Caroline Calloway essay was ‘if I send my kid to NYU is this what will become of her?’” she wrote.


Writer Alanna Okun summed up the confusion that many readers experienced, writing, “Nation’s Boyfriends Relent, Finally Beg Girlfriends to Explain Caroline Calloway.”

Others drew comparisons between the essay and other literary works. The account for CRIT, a writing class taught by novelist Tony Tulathimutte, tweeted, “that caroline calloway story is like My Year of Rest and Relaxation told from the friend's perspective.”

And journalist Claire Tran tweeted: “wait this caroline calloway article is just the great gatsby.”

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Michael Schaub is an Austin, Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.