For over a decade the focus at BookSlut.com has been on brilliant writing – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, works of new authors you’ve never heard of and forgotten pieces from well-known authors you loved in the past. Editor Jessa Crispin, a professional writer herself, has created a site that appeals to a broad range of readers due to its engaging and eclectic selections. We asked her a few questions about the history of the website and the culture of reading.
7S: What made you decide to start the BookSlut site in 2002?
JC: Boredom. I had a lot of time on my hands at my day job and needed to do something that vaguely looked like work to fill the days. It wasn’t until later, when I was surprised to find out other people were actually reading it, too, that I realized I was going to have to take it seriously.
7S: You’ve featured interviews with well-known authors like Kage Baker, Steven Brust, and Neil Gaiman, but also conversations with writers like André Aciman and Santiago Roncagliolo, who aren’t exactly household names in the United States. How do you decide who to interview next?
JC: We leave it up to our contributors to pitch names. But we read everything from the incredibly obscure to the more well known fantasy writers, so who we profile tends to reflect who we are reading.
7S: In the current issue there are twice as many reviews of nonfiction works as of fiction. Is this because there is more nonfiction being written – at least more that is worthy of attention – or for some other reason, if any?
JC: Honestly, it’s because I find contemporary fiction to be so very underwhelming. Like I said, what we profile on the site tends to reflect our reading habits, and for the last couple years, contemporary American fiction has been uninspiring. And yet nonfiction — and by which I do not mean exclusively memoir, because we don’t read much memoir, either — has been quite good in the last years. So we regularly review more nonfiction than fiction.
7S: What’s your perspective on the relationship between reading and writing? Is a good writer always someone who is also a voracious reader?
JC: Every once and a while I’ll meet an author who claims not to read very much, and I have to say, I pretty much immediately lose all interest in reading their books. If you’re not rapturously in love with the literary world you are trying to become a member of, then why bother? Writing should never only be about personal expression. It’s about art, it’s about people in general, it’s about beauty and truth and philosophy and all that stupid stuff. One has to embrace it whole heartedly, or else your writing simply becomes an exercise in narcissistic excess.
7S: What’s the last book you read, and what’s on your upcoming “must read” list?
JC: The last book I read was a nonfiction book called “After Lives,” and it was a guide to various culture’s beliefs and myths about the afterlife. Today I started “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk on the train. It sounds trite to call a work by someone who has already won the Nobel “amazing,” but there you go, it is.