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Bookslut's founder on shuttering the website, why contemporary American publishing is "repulsive"

Jessa Crispin
Jessa Crispin.
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

This March, Bookslut editor and founder Jessa Crispin announced that the site's May issue would be its last. Since 2002 — eons ago in internet time — Bookslut has published smart, thoughtful bookish writing, heavily slanted toward small presses and women.

Crispin spoke to Vulture about her decision to shut down the site, and as the headline — "Lit-Blog Pioneer Jessa Crispin Closes Bookslut, Does Not Bite Tongue" — promises, she does not hold back. Even if you're not a book-blog-of-the-early-'00s completist, the interview is worth reading in full as a case study of how to burn your bridges on the way out.

Below are the six best quotes from her interview with Vulture, covering Crispin's thoughts on publishing, feminism, and the state of book blogging today.

On feminism today:

Contemporary feminism is not only embarrassing but incredibly misguided to the point where I can't associate myself with it. There's outrage culture, safe spaces, the lean-in culture — but also the Gen-X-Baby-Boomer rah-rah capitalism, yay!

On how you can't make money writing about books without Amazon referral links:

We used them back when we were profitable — we paid some writers back when we were profitable — and then, at some point, I realized they were fucking trashing the industry. Then we switched to Powell's, which gave us absolutely no money.

On using the internet to build careers:

I think there’s a difference between what I was doing and what (’s) Ron Hogan was doing — covering the industry in a very positive light, and he’s now an editor at a major publisher and that seems like what he was aiming for. Same with Mark Sarvas (of the Elegant Variation). He was just obviously trying to get a book deal.

On why she started Bookslut:

I was dating this guy and he had a blog and his blog was boring and I thought I could do better than that.

On the current book-blogging boom:

They’re so professional, and I mean that as an insult. I didn’t want to become a professional. It’s like using the critical culture as a support to the industry rather than as an actual method of taking it apart.

On the state of American publishing:

I find MFA culture terrible. Everyone is super-cheerful because they’re trying to sell you something, and I find it really repulsive. … I went to a publisher’s offices and it was a sea of 23-year-old girls in H&M sweaters — just being run by every stereotype I had in my head.

Certainly some of Crispin's outrage is little more than the familiar complaints of a Gen X-er railing against millennials: They're all such coddled little sellouts, and don't they know the real world doesn't have trigger warnings? But her unapologetic frankness is a reminder of the spirit of forthright criticism that made Bookslut great. It will be sorely missed.

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