Why I’ll Never Read Litblogs Again

I first heard about blogs last summer, after the word “Bookslut” caused me to break out in a foul rash. I have sensitive skin. I have sensitive ears. The doctors prescribed the toughest emollient, but it wasn’t enough. So I was forced to start stabbing myself with a plastic fork. It was a surprise to me when I couldn’t draw blood. After all, the words had hurt me. Why couldn’t the disposable cutlery?

“Bookslut,” however, was only the tip of the iceberg. Some man, fancying himself a humorist, ran a site called Black Garterbelt, daring to impugn the moral fabric of books with an unspeakable reference to lingerie. I did not laugh. Instead, I took to wearing a burqa and urging the children in my community to do the same. There was Critical Mass, the blog run by the seemingly respectable National Book Critics Circle, but the name suggesting a mass of something else you might find on the sidewalk. I hesitate to use the four letter words that these literary harlots bandy about with such frequency, but it was a filthy notion. It was as if these book critics, who I thought were made of moral character, had decided to not clean up after their dogs during a walk, if you catch my drift.

Bookshelves of Doom appeared to pilfer its name from the Holy Book of Revelations. It was bad enough that Marvel Comics had named one of their supervillains “Dr. Doom,” thus popularizing a noun of great import. A word not to be used lightly. But now these morally reprehensible blogs were encoding secret messages about the second coming in their titles. But of course, I knew that Christ would strike them down if they could not be saved! As far as I know, Anton Chekhov was a moral man. But, lo and behold, some sinner had conjured up Chekhov’s Mistress! I also understand from a friend that The Elegant Variation refers to the unholy act of premarital sex, and that Mark Sarvas’s blog is a place for unmarried pagans to hook up and commit foul and carnal acts. Enter the Octopus? Dear Lord, this is disgusting. I must also conclude that the writer Ed Park, in naming his blog The Dizzies, is addicted to the evils of alcohol. I do not know what Thumb Drives and Oven Clocks are, but I do not care to find out. And if The Publishing Spot is a coy reference to a woman’s nether regions, well then, Jason Boog is due for a public stoning. Assuming that this is his real name.

But I must stop. These words have been difficult to write. And I have my private doctor taking my blood pressure as I type these words. It had not occurred to me that those who champion literature in these online venues could be possessed of such perfidy and callous disregard for moral purity. The doctor now tells me I must confine myself to bed. Unlike the litbloggers, he chooses his words carefully.

[UPDATE: Apparently, Jessa doesn’t get satire, which includes material that, in fact, champions her site. Incidentally, Eric Rosenfield and I are pals, but we do indeed have independent minds and frequently disagree. It remains a mystery to me why the two of us having penises might lead any reasonable person to think that we were connected to some Y-chromosome hive mind. No different really from some ridiculous gender-based generalization about women that one would expect from a bigot. But there you go.]


  1. “After a few seconds, I realized he’d said, “Nice tits.” It was the first time anybody had ever called my breasts tits, and I remember hating the sharp, ugly sound of that word. I stopped to face the man. Now that he had my attention, he took his opportunity to snarl another insult, this time calling me little slut.”

    “Another insult”? Um, “nice tits” isn’t an insult, it’s a compliment. It’s also harassment, but to call it an insult is a case of taxonomic confusion.

  2. Thank for giving me such a good laugh on this.

    I’m still wondering why she is bothered by what some idiot said to her – and if she had the good sense to tell him to go to hell at the time.

  3. After leaving a comment at Gently Read about this post,I received this in my e-mail:
    Hello all

    First, I want to thank you all for reading and commenting on Stephanie Cleveland’s essay “Why I’ll Never Be a Bookslut” that was featured in Gently Read Literature’s June issue. The discussion inspired by the essay has been for the most part fruitful.

    But as the editor of the site, I felt the need to come to the aid of one of my contributors if only to re-contextualize things (there have been a surprising number of rather insipid and down right hateful comments submitted that I have felt had no place in the discussion, although none from any of you and I thank you).

    Cleveland’s essay comes out of the radical feminist tradition (i.e Dworkin, et al) and while not representative of the whole of feminist thought (nor was it ever meant to be) it does raise some valid questions/concerns that need to be addressed–specifically the social construction of language. And this was the reason I chose to put the essay in the issue, because it raises a vital critical, aesthetic concern. The discussion that has ensued has been, as I’ve said before, mostly positive. But it’s important to realize that though not at all a mere exercise in opinion the essay is by no mean prescriptive, proscriptive, or normative; it is speculative, meaning it’s an attempt to figure out just what exactly we, all of us, mean to say and what that entails both connotatively and denotatively.

    There is no comment that is currently on the site that does not in some way contribute to the discussion nor is there any sentiment expressed that does not have legitimate critical value. But it is vital that we do not fall into the easy confusion of muddled thought (Cleveland is not personally attacking Crispin), rather Cleveland is trying to reason from subjective experience to objective knowledge.

    I hope that you all will give the current issue of Gently Read Literature a thorough reading anand continue to return to GRL in the future.

    Take Care

    With much thanks

    Daniel Sumrall, editor

    Gently Read Literature

    My comment was removed,btw,which is the right of Mr. Sumrall to do and I respect that. I don’t appreciate being lectured,however,about the delicate nature of what his contributor meant(especially since she even added her own comment to the others already on there) and how folks need to understand the “speculative” nature of her essay.

    As I said in my original comment,sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me..UNLESS YOU LET THEM! Then again,I did add a YouTube link to a certain scene about language from Clerks II,which may have offended some but it was of a “speculative nature” as well. Well,one thing is for sure,I won’t bother with Gently Read again.

  4. I’ve never used the word “slut” — not once in my entire life. Please let’s not generalize about all men based on some sleazy guy in a supermarket parking lot.

  5. Until this post, Ed, I hadn’t noticed you’d amended “Filthy Habits” to “Reluctant.”
    Please don’t get so holy as to become the second Assumption, and the first known Y-chromosome being to float up to heaven body and soul. We need you here on earth.

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