This reading life: Jessa Crispin
25 February 2017
By her books we will know the editor and founder of online magazine Bookslut and author of The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life and Why I am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto, as she heads to Wellington for a brace of events.
The first book to capture my imagination was ... When I was four, my father read my sisters and me Frank Herbert’s Dune as a bedtime story. I think he hoped this would turn us into strident nerds, as he himself was, but it didn't work. But it did load up my mind with imagery. I still bizarrely remember my childish ideas of what the water-preserving suits looked like, what the spice looked like, the tremendous worms. It's a very distinct memory, all of us lying in my parents' bed, eyes closed and imagining bizarre worlds.
The character in a book I most wanted to be as a child was ... I always related to Amelia Bedelia, taking things literally, not getting the joke, fucking everything up. I felt so bad for her, I identified with her strongly and couldn't bear that she made other kids laugh, because I felt they were laughing at me. So I would say anyone other than her.
The newspapers, magazines and blogs I can't do without are ... The only newspaper I have a subscription to is the New York Times, and let's just say I am conflicted about that. Paper of Record, sure, also paper of bigotry and misogyny and xenophobia and paper of unquestioned fetishised wealth. But there's no paper that doesn't do that stuff, so here we are. But I love magazines, even now in the death of print and all that. Foreign Policy, Frieze and AnOther are my favourites. I have a subscription to Harper's, but I'm conflicted about that one too (see above).
If I were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book with me, it would be ... If this actually happened to me, I would just walk into the sea.
The first 50 pages or bust? Or always to the bitter end? More like first two pages. Or two sentences.
My favourite 19th-century book is ... When I was a kid, it was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, but now, older, I think that was a fucked-up book to obsess over. Also, anytime someone does a turn on that "Reader, I married him" line I want to punch them in the goddamn face. So hmm, I got into a heated argument with a friend over my not liking Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. I like the Russians well enough, but it's Henry James I go back to again and again. At least in this stage of my life. Tastes change as you get older, but I am firmly in a kind of spinster Henry James place.
My favourite 20th-century book is ... As this is my favourite era of writing, particularly between the wars, I can't possibly answer this, except maybe William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience, a book I will never fully get over.
My favourite contemporary writers are ... You know, my friend and I are rereading Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita together, and Bulgakov writes a lot of shit about his contemporaries. There's a scene where a group of men are forced into a kind of group confession about their wealth, made to give up their foreign currency holdings, and my friend and I indulged in a fantasy where our peers were dragged up on stage and forced to admit where their money comes from. Made to do a full financial confession. That's all I'm going to say about contemporary writers.
The book/s currently by the side of my bed is/are .. I'm travelling at the moment, so I have a collection of Havel's essays, a Graham Greene, some Mary Gordon. I'm off to a Kolkata bookshop tonight, so I imagine I'll come back with full arms.
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