January 7, 2003
Owners of other gay bookshops say they are floored by the fact that Manhattan cannot seem to support a gay bookstore.It’s no surprise to me. Manhattan no longer has a science-fiction bookstore, either.
On the other hand, you can buy a startling variety of science-fiction titles at huge chain bookstores all over Manhattan, and I suspect the same is true of gay-interest books. Moreover, unlike in the days when little Village shops like Oscar Wilde and The Science Fiction Shop flourished, you can find this kind of wide selection out in the suburbs as well.
Some said that the failure of the gay bookstores in Manhattan was actually a sign of the gay movement’s success in making gay issues mainstream, which would be in keeping with what Oscar Wilde wrote in Lady Windemere’s Fan: “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”I would say that sometimes it’s important to ask ourselves what’s more culturally important: the preservation of particular bookstores, or the widespread availability of books.
Obviously, I don’t want bookselling to be controlled by one or two behemoths, but as I’ve written before, people who focus on the loss of charming old independent shops in Cambridge or Berkeley or Greenwich Village have a tendency to forget how completely devoid of bookstores most of America was fifty years ago. The fact that all over the country, in the second-tier cities and suburban sprawls where most people live, you can find a decent selection of books in all sorts of highly specialized categories—well, that’s a change. Indeed, sometimes it’s hard to convey to people who grew up in Cambridge or Berkeley or New York what a transforming change it really is. [07:01 AM]