The Ladies Who Crush: Girl Crush Lights Up Zine Scene

Jennifer Egan contributes to/does not know the meaning of 'zine.

LaForce (left) and Wortham.

LaForce (left) and Wortham.

Thessaly LaForce, web editor of The Paris Review, and Jenna Wortham, technology reporter for The New York Times, recently came up with the idea for a zine called Girl Crush, about female affection for role models. “It’s someone you want to be like, and someone you think is cool. It’s a slightly silly way to say something a little serious—because it’s so earnest to be like, ‘I admire you immensely!,’” said Ms. LaForce, who will attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop upon leaving her job at The Paris Review. Ms. Wortham’s girl crushes include the rapper Kelis, the actress Amy Sedaris, and rock star Kathleen Hanna: “I met Kathleen Hanna and I was just trying not to drool on her!”

Girl crushes, said Ms. Wortham, are “part of being a woman… It evolves from the time you’re little. We look to our sisters, friends, and classmates. You get obsessed with how they wear their hair and how they walk—and everything’s so easy for them!”

The zine—the term refers to a homemade magazine composed, usually, of contributions from friends—has one high-profile contributor, Pulitzer-winning novelist Jennifer Egan, the common girl crush of many young literary types. “She represents a female writer who hasn’t been shellacked with chick-lit covers,” said Ms. LaForce, who also admires Isak Dinesen (“this cool woman who goes to Africa with her husband and has an affair with a hot hunter!”). Ms. Egan’s contribution, a piece of short fiction about girl-on-girl fixation in a Catholic school, was elicited by an email to Ms. Egan’s publicly accessible address: “We thought, why not think big?” said Ms. LaForce.

Said Ms. Egan, calling The Observer from vacation on Martha’s Vineyard : “I didn’t know who they were, but I thought, why not?” She had a piece of writing, pre-writen, that fit the theme, and “I kind of like mixing things up a little and not always publishing in big places.” Who was her girl crush? She laughed. “The term feels—how to put this?—the generation after mine. To me, I don’t think it terms of girl crushes, no. I’ve got friends that I adore who are female. But calling it a girl crush feels a little like wearing pigtails.”

When informed that another of the contributors to the zine, Emma Straub, had written about her girl crush on Ms. Egan herself, the Visit From the Goon Squad author replied, “No! Oh my God! And—”she paused—“when you call it a zine, what does that mean? I don’t even know what that looks like now. ”

The Girl Crush contributor and longtime Egan reader Emma Straub, whose essay in the zine is entitled “Jennifer Egan is My Hero,” told The Observer: “Jennifer Egan seems like such a genuinely sweet human being that I’m not ashamed of my love. I think she’d be tickled by it. Other girl crushes, she said, included Ms. LaForce, (“gorgeous and brilliant”) and actress Amy Poehler (“she’d be a great girl to go to the prom with.”)

Hours after our conversation, Ms. Egan thought of a girl crush. She text messaged The Observer: “if I were going to pick a girl crush, it would be Hillary Clinton. She is consistently amazing.”

ddaddario@observer.com :: @DPD_