A Party for the Haters

“What’s Hate Reads?” a patron at The River, a bar on Bayard Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown, asked early on Wednesday evening. She and a friend had no idea they had wandered into the beginning of a party.

It was perhaps the perfect question to kick off the evening’s event: a reading to celebrate the limited run of Hate Reads, a pop-up newsletter within a newsletter and the brainchild of Delia Cai, a writer for Vanity Fair. (Hate Reads was published as a limited-run on Ms. Cai’s regular newsletter, Deez Links, which she publishes on Substack, the sponsor of the evening’s fete.)

In a call back to the juicy blogging style of a bygone era (2010), contributing writers anonymously wrote essays railing against their least favorite things. They hated on things like Taylor Swift’s outfits, goldendoodles, media parties and, in a meta-commentary, the Hate Reads themselves. Some of the essays, particularly one about the state of men’s wear, went moderately viral in certain online circles.

Chipper Substack employees roamed the bar with a roll of stick-on name tags and a Sharpie, encouraging people to label themselves not only with their names but with something they hated. Natural wines, roommates eating your groceries, loud chewing and “cops,” were spotted on chests throughout the evening.

“I hate myself,” Mi-Anne Chan, creator of the Condé Nast newsletter Mixed Feelings, wrote on hers.

The small bar was fairly packed with contributors to Hate Reads, employees of Substack and an assortment of writers and editors. Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

About 75 people crammed into The River’s dark corners, sitting on chairs, stools and even the floor to watch several of the essayists unmask themselves and read excerpts from their work. (“Unmask” being a loose term here as several of the writers revealed themselves via social media shortly after publication, seemingly unable to resist the siren song of a quick dopamine hit.)

Ms. Cai stood up on a bench calling to begin the evening. “Oh captain, my captain,” someone shouted from the crowd.

“We’re not online bullying tonight,” Ms. Cai explained, urging the crowd to think carefully before posting about the party on social media lest they sic an internet mob onto one of the readers sharing the object of their disgust.

Attendees were asked to wear name tags that listed something they hate.Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Some of the name tags had a darker message.Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

One by one, 10 essayists took their turns reading. Daniel Varghese, an editor at The Wall Street Journal, begged people to stop bringing bizarre beverages to house parties, while The Cut’s Danya Issawi let loose her ire for fast walkers. A standout was the writer Mary H.K. Choi, who delivered a monologue about how she hates herself for loving the musician Post Malone. (Ms. Choi did not write an essay for Hate Reads.)

“It’s like this cancer inside me,” Ms. Choi said of Post Malone. “There’s just something about a particular breed of white dude scumbag that just does it for me,” she added as the crowd whooped and laughed.

After the readings were over, the crowd, which included the Highsnobiety editor Willa Bennett and the Drunken Canal founder Gutes Guterman, lingered in the dim room. “ASK FOR THE HATERADE,” read several signs taped up near the bar. It was a vodka soda.

T-shirts for the event made their message clear: These people love to hate.Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

“I feel like I’m the only real fan here,” joked May Olvera, a booking producer at NewsNation who found out about the event on social media. Everyone else in the roomseemed to either have written a Hate Read, or was a friend, romantic partner, colleague, former colleague or future colleague of a Hate Reads writer.

“If anyone here is a member of a long-term open relationship,” Ms. Cai announced to the crowd at one point. “Somebody wants to talk to you for a story.”

This was a media party, what else did you expect?

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