Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

the closing of the Oscar Wilde Bookshop (on Christopher St. in NYC)

My friend Allie went to NYC this weekend and mentioned in her LJ: "[we] went to visit the Oscar Wilde, the first queer bookstore in the world, which is closing next Sunday. *sigh* Which is an incredible tragedy. But I won't start ranting about that." Reading The New York Times online today, i saw that someone else had almost the same reaction i did.

from "Closing Time" by Bruce Bawer:
It would be heartless not to mourn the passing of the Oscar Wilde Bookshop. Many middle-aged gay men and women can remember a time in their confused and anxious youth when, making their way to that tiny, book-crammed space on Christopher Street (the original location was on Mercer), they bought books that helped them understand and accept who they were. I've always resisted the romantic notion of a gay community, but if such a thing ever existed, places like the Oscar Wilde Bookshop were at its center.

Yet sad though it is to lose the Oscar Wilde Bookshop — or, for that matter, any bookshop — the fading of the gay bookstore as an institution is far from a tragic sign. Yes, in part these independent booksellers are a casualty of competition from bookstore chains and Internet booksellers. But their decline is also a reflection of something very positive — namely, the entrance of gay Americans into mainstream culture over the last decade or so.

Increasingly, gay men and women are open, fully integrated members of society. Consequently the need for specifically gay institutions is fading. A generation ago, places like the Oscar Wilde Bookshop were thriving because mainstream bookstores simply wouldn't have stocked a gay book. It was a time when gay novels — that is, novels written by gay people, about gay people, for gay people — were the only way for gay men and women to escape from a world in which they were despised into a world in which they were taken seriously.
I know, i know, i’m just begging for an argument about homogenization and assimilation and cultural appropriation and anything else one can think of. There is the argument that large chains only stock the really popular and the most mainstream books as well as the argument that the community, the supportive atmosphere, the whathaveyou, that stores specializing in GLBT merch offer is important. That’s valid, though it begs one to point out that as long as there is a demand for said specialty shops, they will continue to exist. If people purchase all their GLBT stuff from the big chains and/or online, then these small specialty stores will fold. Supply and demand and all that. I could start really channeling my father here and make analogies to how good American liberals decry the proliferation of chains (McDonalds, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, etc.) especially in foreign countries even when people say they want them, and make really mean comments about the idea of having “save people from themselves,” but i won’t.

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