Friday, November 08, 2013

Time remaining

I wonder if more independent bookstores would still be in business if the people working there were friendly. Of course, it’s hard to be friendly when you’re working at an exclusive job that pays you nothing. I’m thinking about structural homophobia at independent bookstores too, which of course goes alongside structural racism, misogyny, and all the rest. But structural homophobia is what I’m thinking about at the moment. I’m thinking about the LGBT section, sometimes called gay, and once in a while called queer. This section has been much maligned by gay and queer authors, many of whom I respect (and many I do not). The basic critique is that this section ghettoizes gay and queer work, pushes it away from view, marginalizes us. But the reality is that most stores do not carry queer work unless it is in this section. Sure, you may be able to find William Burroughs or Gertrude Stein, but try for something less vaunted or more contemporary and forget it. Ideally, a queer section would help me find some of the books I want, expose me to new authors. Often, though, the selection is awful. Which brings me back to structural homophobia (and transphobia, fear of difference, fear of anything not proven marketable), and the stores that allegedly have all this great taste when it comes to new literature, but then you throw the word gay (or the term "LGBT") at them, and they give you the most shellacked, odious, empty titles. I think we should have bigger queer sections, better, and we should also see queer authors cross-referenced in the supposedly general interest sections as well. Whether this will ever happen I’m not sure.

What about the term cultural capital? It’s obvious: every edition of The Norton Anthology of Poetry should be immediately replaced with Dodie Bellamy’s Cunt Norton. But how do we make this happen? “So this is my pussy, the outer compulsion, yet surrounded, driving your car.”

I’m still thinking about something Karma Chavez said to me in the car in Wisconsin, about how radical bookstores used to fund organizing projects through the sale of books, but now it’s become so difficult to keep some of the stores afloat that there isn’t any time remaining for other organizing projects.

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