“You would be surprised at the level of craziness and hostility that exists in the literary world if you share a different opinion than somebody.”
Last week’s guest was quintessential bookman Michael Dirda, and this time around we have Jessa Crispin, founder of Bookslut! Ms. Crispin recently stepped down from blogging at Bookslut after a 12-year run, which is like 500 years in internet-time. We talked about that decision, the advice she’d give her 23-year-old self, the downsides of learning to write online, why lack of ambition was key to Bookslut’s success, her take on the state of book reviewing, her upcoming book, The Dead Ladies Project (2015, from University of Chicago Press), how she learned to love Henry James while nursing a breakup, and more!
“It’s been my experience that in your hour of need, the book that you need to read will find you.”
We also discuss how she escaped the Outrage Machine by moving to Berlin, how she pared her library down to 17 books, why joining the National Book Critics Circle was her biggest mistake during the Bookslut era, why Belgrade was her least favorite city to visit, and why she’s more afraid of reading her blog archives than her old margin notes. Bonus: I accidentally mix up William Safire and William Buckley!
“It isn’t the case of ‘I’m only going to review the nice things’; it’s more the case that I can cultivate the world that I want to live in. I can invite people in rather than constantly defend the gates.”
About our Guest
Jessa Crispin is the editor and founder of the literary magazines Bookslut.com and Spoliamag.com. Her first book, The Dead Ladies Project, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, fall 2015. Born in Kansas, she has lived in Texas, Ireland, Chicago, and Germany. She has written for many publications, some of which are still in business. Her personal library currently resides in Berlin.
Credits: This episode’s music is No More Words by Berlin (see, because Jessa isn’t writing any more blog posts for Bookslut and she moved to Berlin a while back, and — oh, never mind). The conversation was recorded at a housesit in Brooklyn on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Ms. Crispin by me.
It’s time for the first double-episode of the season!
“To me, there are two types of YA: one is fiction written with the kid in mind, and the other is where the characters happen to be that age. It’s a fascinating age-group, because that’s where the world is changing. I tend to write for the latter.”
First, Craig Gidney, author of the new YA novel, Bereft, talks about bullying and how the internet has amplified it, his literary influences, his problems with “transparent” prose and Twilight, how his new book differs from his first collection, Sea, Swallow Me, and the joy of getting a blurb from one of his favorite authors.
“For the first 15 years or so, we’d occasionally get busted windows. It hasn’t happened in 10 or 15 years now, but in a period of two weeks, there were three windows smashed, and then we would go a few years without having any busted. It always struck me as interesting that these broken windows always came in the dead of night.”
Then Ed Hermance talks to us about the history of his queer bookstore, Giovanni’s Room, the changing face of gay literature, the challenges of selling books in The Amazon Age, the historical creation of gay identity, why he was a little embarrassed by Obama’s Stonewall shout-out, and the most poignant story that the store has to tell.
About our Guests
Craig Laurance Gidney writes both contemporary, young adult and genre fiction. Recipient of the 1996 Susan C. Petrey Scholarship to the Clarion West writer’s workshop, he has published works in the fantasy/science fiction, gay and young adult categories. His first collection, Sea, Swallow Me and Other Stories, was nominated for the 2009 Lambda Literary Award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy and Horror category. He lives and writes in his native Washington, DC. He is on Twitter as @ethereallad.
Ed Hermance is the owner of Giovanni’s Room, the longest-operating queer bookstore in America. Ed was born in Houston in 1940, graduated Dartmouth College (’62, BA, philosophy) and Indiana University, Bloomington (’65, MA, comparative literature), and taught at Auburn, Indiana State , and Tuebingen University in Germany. Fearing that he might never escape the closet as long as he remained a teacher, Ed abandoned academia and joined a hippie commune in the mountains of Southern Colorado (still a going concern with a long history of distinguished perennial guests, including Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and John Corso). Ed moved to Philadelphia in 1971 to manage Ecology Food Co-op, a natural foods outlet. He bought Giovanni’s Room from its founders with partner Arleen Olshan in 1976.
Credits: This episode’s music is Heaven or Las Vegas by Cocteau Twins. The conversation with Craig was recorded at the Doris-Mae Gallery in Washington, D.C., on a pair of Blue Encore 100 mics. The conversation with Ed was recorded at the Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the interstitial stuff on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band.