BuzzFeed names Isaac Fitzgerald its first books editor

BuzzFeed has hired Isaac Fitzgerald to edit its books section.

Fitzgerald

The author Stephen Elliott convinced Fitzgerald to join the literary site The Rumpus, who said in a phone call he had been “just bouncing around” in San Francisco, working at Bucca di Beppo and AlterNet, “smuggling medical supplies into Burma” and working in a biker bar. He stayed at The Rumpus, which he co-owns, for four years and then joined McSweeney’s as its director of publicity.

He liked the McSweeney’s job, Fitzgerald said, “But I was missing the Internet, and I was missing what I do best, which is talk about books online.” He foresees a section built on “shareable content” and personal essays from authors — “things that people want to share but also can connect with,” he said, citing a quote from Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys”: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”

BuzzFeed will do book reviews, Fitzgerald said, but he hasn’t figured out yet what form they’ll take. It won’t do negative reviews: “Why waste breath talking smack about something?” he said. “You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip.” Fitzgerald said people in the online books community “understand that about books, that it is something that people have worked incredibly hard on, and they respect that. The overwhelming online books community is a positive place.”

He will follow what he calls the “Bambi Rule” (though he acknowledges the quote in fact comes from Thumper): “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

BuzzFeed launched its books section this past summer. At the time, Burton told me that it had no plans for a dedicated staff or traditional reviews. Fitzgerald will start in December and will move to New York. I asked him about whether he’d be a lonely bearded person among the publication’s staff. “I’m not gonna lie. Very early on I was a little worried. There are a lot of beardless dudes,” he said. “I saw some guys with some potential.”


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  • Ryk Spoor

    Speaking as an author who loves seeing positive reviews… this is stupid. If my book doesn’t make a reviewer happy, I want the reviewer to tell us about it — honestly! How in the world can I tell if I pissed off the RIGHT people if I can’t read their negative reviews? :)

  • townandgownie

    So ALL books are crap unless we read a positive review in BuzzFeed? Makes sense.

  • http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/reviewer/josh-trapani/ Josh T

    Let me shamelessly shill for The Washington Independent Review of Books (http://www.wirobooks.com). We don’t cut negative reviews.

  • Jezzer

    Hopefully NYC will eat him alive when he comes in there with his “every book is wonderful and special” fluffy nonsense.

  • Jezzer

    “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

    That’s the stupidest fucking review policy I’ve ever heard.

  • Avery Smallcube

    cool, a book editor with a fundamental misunderstanding of what criticism actually is.

  • Paul Hertneky

    Let’s just call it the Thumper Rule, then. Compassion-led literary criticism — hmm, I don’t know. Somehow, it seems okay for first books, but once the brand is built, consumers would be served by finding out whether subsequent products measure up. Critical analysis doesn’t have to be a “scathing takedown rip”; it can be elegant and entertaining. And if the online book community is overwhelmingly positive, might you want to stray a bit from the herd?

  • Rachael Schafer

    Bummer that isaac is moving to NYC… SF loses another. I’ve done some illustrations for the rumpus and worked with him on those and he’s pretty great. Congratulations to Buzzfeed for scoring him!

  • billmarvel

    I don’t read BuzzFeed books section now. Nothing here convinces me to start.

  • Sean Boulger

    Agreed, yeah.

  • Mary Ladd

    Isaac is a smart commodity and NY and BuzzFeed are doubly lucky to have him. I expect continued greatness from him.

  • http://www.bookdirtblog.blogspot.com/ Kelly Robinson

    Buzzfeed’s book content is so often written by people who obviously haven’t read the books about which they’re writing. (And by writing, I mean compiling lists.) Maybe they should avoid reviews completely, if they’re going to be in the same ripped-from-Wikipedia vein.

  • http://ubiquitousamericana.tumblr.com/ Bradley

    Expecting any sort of serious literary discourse from Buzzfeed Books was the silly part of what I did there.

  • Sean Boulger

    Not close enough, or we’d have been spared that silly comment.

  • http://ubiquitousamericana.tumblr.com/ Bradley

    I’m not even able to articulate yet just how awful this no negative reviews policy is.

    I’m pretty close to speechless.