I am in Book Review Limbo these days. I still subscribe to The New Yorker, but I recently canceled my subscriptions to the TLS and LRB because (a) I was only interested in coverage of classics, which was diminishing; (b) Mary Beard’s free blog was obviously the go-to place for classics; and (c) I decided I’d rather blow a couple of hundred dollars on jeans.
So where do I read reviews? Blogs partially fill the gap. I like the voices in personal blogs, whether polished or rough, because we get to know the individual writers. Their voices are usually much tamer and diluted in blog/webzines, alas, but Bookslut was the best of these. So I was sorry to hear that Jessica Crispin, the writer, critic, and editor of Bookslut, shut down her book blog/webzine, which covered mostly small press books. She says she got tired of it, and my guess is she doesn’t need it anymore, now that she has published two books. Bookslut always seemed a little young to me, but I liked to know it was there.
So why am I writing about Bookslut if I didn’t spend much time there? Because The Guardian sucked me in with the title of an article, “Jessica Crispin “We’re Not Allowed to Say the Paris Review Is Boring.”
It’s so much fun to read a quote like that. We all love an outrageous critic. She is an outsider–she started Bookslut while she was working at Planned Parenthood in Texas–and what she learned about the New York publishing industry didn’t impress her. I actually like The Paris Review, and used to buy it at Borders, which is no longer an option. I still have a decades-old copy with an article about someone who went looking for J. D. Salinger.
The author of the Guardian article writes about Crispin,
In fact Crispin’s long run at Bookslut, where she did basically what she wanted, gave her a vision into the world of publishing that made her ill. She would open Bookforum, for example, she said, and find it reviewing only a certain set of books. “As things get kind of more chaotic for publications,” she said. “They get narrower and narrower and more elite and nepotistic.” It bothered her that the industry thought of itself as being intellectually honest when it was obsessed with “money and celebrity”.
I know very little about the New York publishing industry, but I have gleaned from years of reading reviews and seeing the same few books and authors boosted in every bookstore and every review publication that writers who get reviewed have (a) Ivy League connections, (b) graduated from an MFA program, (c) or, as in Hollywood…well, we can’t say that. As for English publishing, it seems miraculous that anyone who didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge would ever get a gig.
By the Way, The Paris Review has published a response to Crispin’s words.
The Secret’s Out: We’re BORINGASFUCK
May 9, 2016 | by The Paris Review
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