Bookshop review: Gay’s The Word

I’d heard about the existence of a “proper gay bookshop” from a number of sources, over time, including a friend of mine doing a redoubtable PhD on library book provision for GLBT youth (in between obsessing about penguins). But somehow it had always managed to escape my consciousness exactly where it was, so it wasn’t till late October this year that I actually managed to visit it.

Gay’s The Word is a small and unassuming shop front near Russell Square tube station, and at the time I went in was tucked away under scaffolding which appears to be something to do with the buildings above. I entered with some trepidation since I’m well aware that good bookshops mean bad financial decision-making, especially when you’re stuck on benefits. Inside it’s a small but pleasant and airy space, with a tempting Fiction section right inside the door; further down are sections on transgender literature, magazines, erotica, women’s, a slightly unexpected office-cum-kitchen partially concealed by racks of postcards, and GLBT history. I picked up a copy of Jamison Green‘s Becoming a Visible Man, which is one of the most interesting books about trans men I’ve ever seen.

Moral duty discharged, I then felt free to dive into the fiction. There was a vast range from classic to crazy and ancient to modern; I spotted Armistead Maupin, a satirical film-noir comedy which reminded me of nothing so much as Malcolm Pryce,  classical greats, American novelists I’d never heard of, and to my fanboyish delight, fellow Cambridge writer Alex Beecroft‘s Shining in the Sun. Eventually I managed to whittle down my selection to a Stephen McCauley novel which seemed a little more suitable as light reading than Mr Green’s offering. I attempted to make a dash for the till before anything else could leap off the shelf into my arms, which proved fruitless since I was promptly waylaid by a keyring proclaiming “Get out of my way, I’m fabulous”.

The staff were a delight in and of themselves, chatty and friendly and more than knowledgeable about their product range; cashier Jim was only too happy to compare and contrast Jeanette Winterson’s latest book to her other work, as well as enquire whether I’d be taking my new keyring at its word and hurling old ladies out of my path left and right. Sadly we both concluded that we’re simpy too nice to be that awesome. I blame being British, myself.


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