The Last Word on That “Bad Art Friend” Story


Adult and child holding kidney shaped paper, world kidney day, National Organ Donor Day, charity don...
Judgment Day

The particular intersection of writers and online freaks that make up Media Twitter is still aflutter in the wake of “Who Is the Bad Art Friend?”, a wild and ultimately soul-crushing New York Times Magazine feature about an interpersonal, interprofessional, and litigious dispute between two writers that was published yesterday.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, I might recommend that you find something better to do with your time rather than get sucked into this black hole of mid-level literary beef and all its accompanying commentary. But if you insist on exercising your right to persist, here is a brief (for a nearly 10,000-word story, at least) summary of the whole sorry affair:

Dawn Dorland, an unpublished author, donated a kidney via a nondirected donation, in which the organ goes to a stranger in need, and added her friends and acquaintances to a Facebook group she created about the fact. Sonya Larson, a more successful writer whom Dorland one-sidedly considered a “friend,” wrote a short story that was inspired (not in an admiring way) by Dorland’s kidney donation and subsequent frequent posts about her act of altruism. Not only that, but Larson — in an original version of her story — used words that Dorland wrote, almost verbatim, in the form of a letter to the recipient of the kidney. Dorland, upset by both the inspiration/plagiarism as well as what she likely perceived to be a betrayal of friendship (which was, again, pretty much one-sided), attempted to get Larson to pay damages via a lawsuit against a book festival. Larson sued back. Dorland filed a counterclaim. Larson accused Dorland of harassing a writer of color (herself). Mean group chats were subpoenaed. It turned into a real fucking mess. Oh, and Dorland, it must be noted, was apparently the one to pitch this whole saga to reporter Robert Kolker, who ended up writing about it for the Times.

By now, you may have already clicked over to Twitter and searched for “bad art friend” and/or “kidney” and seen every shade of opinion out there: declarations of which person to side with (writers are, surprise surprise, overwhelmingly siding with Larson), armchair diagnoses of mental health conditions (narcissistic personality disorder seems to be the winning one), and philosophical ruminations on art, the muse, and the creator (ugh).

Here is my final word on this depressing, but admittedly titillating, tale and the absolute tsunami it has unleashed among those who fancy themselves quill-drivers: Writers are so annoying. (I can say this because I am a writer.)

And yes, I’m probably also talking about you.