If the phrase “anonymous Tumblr advice column” feels like a particularly 2009 statement, that’s because it very much is. Anonymity may be a scarcity in today’s internet landscape, and yet Coquette—formerly known as “Coketalk” in her Tumblr heyday—has maintained her private, fully anonymous, advice-giving persona for nearly a decade. It is strange, no doubt, for longtime readers of first her Tumblr and now her website to see her advice column now in book form, having gained a type of internet cult following over the years. If nothing else, The Best Of Dear Coquette: Shady Advice From A Raging Bitch Who Has No Business Answering Any Of These Questions is an in-depth reminder of what made Dear Coke Talk such a powerful column in the first place.
Dear Coquette is her second book, following 2012’s Notes To My Future Husband: A Bitch’s Guide To Our Happily Ever After, that compiles the best of her 8-year-old column. In the case of Shady Advice From A Raging Bitch, Coquette manages to hit the nail on the head of the advice-giving economy. Essentially anyone can give advice online these days, anonymous or not. There will always be a perpetual cycle of those looking for answers and those confident enough to provide them. The thing that made Coquette stand out through all these years, through the saccharine and loving and long-winded advice columns that populate a number of publications, was her willingness to be straight-forward, curt, and unsympathetic to the hemming and hawing of her readers. Reading Dear Coquette often feels like 350 pages’ worth of ripping off Band-Aids. She refuses to coddle. “I deliberately stop short of telling you how, because I can’t,” she writes to a reader eager to learn to be self-aware. “I know better, and I’m not one of those assholes like Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura who can deal in cheap platitudes and feel-good McTherapy.” Coquette isn’t there to hold hands. She tells people to get out of their bad relationships, tell the truth, face themselves. Readers write to her with problems spanning four or five paragraphs, only to get responses often three or four sentences long. Is it really all that simple? Coquette seems to think it is. That’s not to say Coquette isn’t sympathetic—her columns are caring and compassionate because of, not despite, their bluntness.
There’s also a pivotal sense of self-awareness to Dear Coquette. The subtitle says it all: She doesn’t have any business answering these questions because arguably no advice columnist has any business answering these questions. And yet they do anyway, and so does she. In response to a recent graduate who feels out of depth in an “important job,” she writes: “We’re all faking it. Every last one of us, especially the experts. Our species has consistently been wrong about almost everything we’ve ever thought or believed.” Case in point: She argues against self-help books in her own advice column. But it’s the self-awareness—the humanity, arguably, and willingness to be wrong—of Coquette and her anonymity that make her an excellent vessel for so much good advice. None of this matters, she often argues, and none of us know what’s going on. So let’s carry on like we do.