Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bent Pages


Billed as "NYC's only remaining LGBT bookstore," Bent Pages of Staten Island has shuttered. On their Facebook page this weekend they wrote, "Well, It was a good run, wasn't it? Thanks to all who made the experience so rich and meaningful. Heart's hurting a little bit just now, but we'll be alright."

Opened in May 2008, Bent Pages held many community events, including "read-alouds, musical performances, sit n' knit, Scrabble Tournaments, and more." On their Yelp profile they wrote, "We are lesbian-owned and value the memory of small bookstores and mourn the loss of so many bookshops in New York City."

Co-owners Robin and Katie told me:

"People loved the idea of Bent Pages, but had a hard time getting off Facebook to actually come in. People simply did not come in to buy books. We were a used bookstore, specializing in LGBT titles, many of which were rare and out of print. There seemed to be little appreciation for this. We heard everything from, 'Just books?' to 'Oh, I don't read' to 'Oh, are they all free?' After almost 5 years, it got harder and harder to walk in the door. We are giving ourselves time to breathe, listen to the universe, and see what happens."

Oscar Wilde's old space

As for lost LGBT bookshops in the city, A Different Light vanished in 2001, and The Oscar Wilde Bookshop, the first gay bookstore in America, followed in 2009. Oscar Wilde was in business for 41 years. Its empty space in the Village was quickly filled with an upscale boutique, but that didn't last long at all. Oscar Wilde's space is empty, up for rent again.

Maybe The Bureau of General Services Queer Division can move in. They now have the lonely distinction of being New York City's one and only queer bookshop.


Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

I posted your blog on Gay Writers/Readers group, a private Google group and got a few replies from writers on the closing idea.

First Mick wrote: They're getting rid of us faster than you think.

Rick Reed writer answered: Just because the stores where books are sold are changing doesn't mean they're getting rid of us, Mick. Take heart! It's just the paradigm that's evolving; at least, that's what I tell myself.

Dorien Grey wrote: What I find truly discouraging about the state of GLBT bookstores is the fact that while they supported the gay community for years, we have failed
to return the favor. Hey, I can save fifty cents by buying a book at Amazon, so.... We bemoan their passing yet few of us do anything to make sure they stay
alive by simply shopping with them.

Kage Alan added: The scary thing is that I've traveled to and done book signings in many stores that have closed over the years. I'd made a pretty large effort to
forge relationships with the businesses and stay in touch with them (they'd invited me back when a new book came out) only to be equally disheartened when they couldn't survive anymore.
The blog post mentions The Oscar Wilde Bookshop and I remember speaking to the owner about setting up a signing. She was excited that I wanted to work
with them, but the moment she found out I was with a smaller publisher (i.e. not one of the big NYC publishers), her demeanor changed and I was told it was by invitation only. That somewhat soured my desire to ever seek
them out when I was in the area. Fortunately, that was one the few bad experiences I ever had with one of our bookstores.

And Victor Banis, grandfather of American Gay Literature added: My experiences with gay bookstores were not always so positive. I did an event with Ann Bannon at Different Light in S.F., which an employee told me was the biggest event they'd ever done there - but the next time I came in, they mostly just gave me the brush off. Friends went into Different Light in West Hollywood, wanting to order my books - I mean, like hand over cash right then and there - and they were told they couldn't do that. And my experience at Oscar Wilde in NYC was much like Kage's. My experience at the one store in Chicago - Dorien, help me out here, it's near where you live - was entirely positive, as was one at a store in Madison, which was mostly a woman's store - and Lambda Rising in Washington was always welcoming to me. But too many of them seemed to suffer the Castro Complex - we've got a captive audience, we don't need to treat them with respect or courtesy. I know we have lost some good ones, but a lot of them were the victims of their own indifference, in my opinion.

John23 said...

Isn't it absolutely heart breaking, yet also fascinating, that while in the past New York was losing businesses because everyone wanted to leave the city, today we are losing hundreds of businesses because no one can afford to STAY in the city!!??
We are witnessing a slow, torturous death.

Dave - everywhere said...

I have a connection to the publishing insdustry and I can assure you that the LGBT literature is alive and well. Problem is Amazon - between the pricing and convenience, it is killing the indie bookstores (of all persuasions). The examples cited by Mick of stores that aren't willing to extend themselves to authors and small publishers are giving away their businesses to Amazon and not even getting a "thank you" in return.

Stephanie said...

While it isn't LGBT-exclusive, Bluestockings on Allen Street has tons of queer books and has lots of readings on queer topics. They also host the once-monthly Dyke Knitting Circle events. It appears to be thriving too.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who see a problem with sexual option-based libraries and don't see any problem on segregated business disappearing?

Gays and lesbians wanted basic tolerance, as in not being thrown out of a store just because of the type of sex life they have. That was mostly achieved.

So what is the purpose of having segregated business in 2013?

I guess this goes on the same line of the discussion put by some people that resent gays and lesbians can go to many "mostly straight" places undisturbed and thus stop patronizing niche bars/restaurants/stores that cater to them, making them languish.

This all being said, some things just change. Bookstores (and news stands) are suffering immensely from becoming partially obsolete due to new trend brought by Internet/e-books. Even in places where cost of commercial real estate is not increasing or is actually plummeting, they are all hgaving a very tough time to survive because of online shopping and/or reading.

I don't see this as a problem, many messenger boys lost their jobs when telephones came to town early 20th Century, and many gasman lost their careers and relevance (as professionals) when electric street lighting took over gas-fired lamps. It's a normal process of technological evolution.

laura said...

anon 3:45am: its about "options" this is america! mixed book store fine, gay books store fine, all male gay fine etc etc. i dont like the sound of the word "tolerate" it has negative overtones. gays are more "accepted" for sure. dosnt that sound better? they also have the "right" to have their
"own space". ofcause straights can walk in & have a look. its america. the problem us that ALL bookstores are closing!