In a land of smarmy book reviews and a time of look and listen to me because I have a fancy degree, the destiny of a great webzine rests on the shoulders of a young woman, her name Jessa Crispin.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Jessa killed her webzine, Bookslut. It happened a few months ago, and it was big. Vulture interviewing her big. Jessa is still bebopping around. She keeps the webzine’s name as her Twitter handle. She published The Dead Ladies Project (currently reading) with the University of Chicago, The Creative Tarot (currently reading) with the Simon & Schuster imprint Touchstone this year, and wrote Why I am Not a Feminist — a piece about modern feminism and her dissatisfaction with it — with Melville House.
Crispin explained Bookslut’s origins to The Rumpus.
“…Planned Parenthood—which is a totally benevolent organization—moved me to fundraising, which I fucking hated. I cannot be nice to people on command. All they ever had me do was take peoples’ coats at events. They didn’t want me to talk to anybody. I hated it, but it also gave me a lot of free time, filled with rage, to figure out what to do. That’s how Bookslut happened. I was very bored and angry and I had a computer with Internet on it.”
The Internet is the new Aristotle. It’s a great educator, but it thinks that women are inferior. Jessa Crisipin was able to bypass the white male dominated Liternet’s insistence on containing women in obscurity, and is credited with creating the first book blog.
Jessa Crisping is a lot of admirable things. She is oh-so-quotable, something I value for obvious. Here is one of them.
…“slut” is derogatory, it’s a hate word, it’s a slur, and so we shouldn’t use it at all. It’s not funny and “how am I supposed to take you seriously when you obviously don’t take this thing seriously?” I never asked anybody to take me seriously [On the Bad Responses Women have to Bookslut]
Additional admirable qualities: Jessa is opinionated, a tarot-card enthusiast, and a college drop out.
For as inclusive and non-academic mainstream fiction is, so much of publishing is filled with writers who have gone to college. The lack of diversity and voice in literary fiction is a symptom of publishers acting like an ivy league admissions committee, where it is more about who you know and where you learned than what you can contribute as a literary citizen, because the disparity between a college student and someone who can’t afford to college or finish college is that the former has the right to be a literary citizen, and the latter is stereotyped as being incapable of being one. It’s true that a college student is usually well-read, but a bookworm can have a hard-knock life, and academia which progressively works in opposition to creativity is not always a healthy environment for someone with an artistic temperament.
This post is not just about Jessa Crispin. I was inspired to write this post last month upon learning that PANK came back to life, after announcing they were ceasing publication last summer. Not only am I happy that PANK is back, but it also gives me hope that Bookslut can come back. We need Bookslut. The internet is inundated and oversaturated, but that’s only because the Internet has the world becoming more literate and with that more in love with literature. Bookslut did not have the polish of Electric Literature (a site that I dare to say wouldn’t exist without Bookslut) or the big names of The Millions, but it had simple look and a great name.
In May, Crispin told Vulture that her decision to end Bookslut was because the money and how it compromised what she set out to do fourteen years ago. “Now it’s all directly linked to how many pageviews you get. So you can’t write about obscure literature that only ten people care about and make eight cents. You have to write about the books that all the people already know about.” How many times did you see the name Elena Ferrante today? How many of the books that are on the Man Booker Prize list did you hear about over the year? If you’re like me, the answer to the first is fifteen. Then again I’m doing a profile on Elena Ferrante for JuxtaProse because she is so popular. The answer to the second is three, only because Elizabeth Strout and JM Coetzee are big names, and Eileen has been on my TBR list since last summer.
I can’t remember when I first encountered Bookslut, but I know I fell in love with it when I came across it’s Paul Harding interview.
As a person with a promiscuous reading problem, I enjoy the word Bookslut, and I felt like I met my destiny when my dad called me a bookslut two or three years ago, without any knowledge of my love for the site.
The biggest thing Jessa Crispin and Bookslut gave me was the inspiration to start my own lit magazine last year, when I thought I would never get the chance to work at one. The reason we need Bookslut is that we need an original voice to critique and curate literature as much as we need voices of that kind writing literature. If it never returns, we’ll always have the website (hopefully), and it can stay there as a point of reference for my peers and some of Crispin’s peers, to see something a little different and how the literary Internet began.