Saving Gay’s The Word

From time to time I pop into the veteran independent bookshop Gay’s The Word in Marchmont Street, which has a unique and often exclusive selection of new and used books on gay topics. My rare copy of Mr Hoare’s Stephen Tennant biography was found there. There’s also a good stock of homo-themed graphic novels and comic books.

It’s been going since 1979, right through the Thatcher years and Clause 28, and is now struggling to hold its own against the escalating rents of 2007 London. With the demise of Compendium Books in Camden and Sister Moon of Charing Cross, I think many people of my age and older are surprised to learn that it’s still going. Well, just about still going. This story in the Times is fascinating.

Plenty of authors voice their concern at its possible closure, and the shop is offering a chance for supporters to ‘Sponsor a Shelf’ at £100 a go. I’d cough up myself if I could afford it.

Incredibly, though, Jeanette Winterson thinks the shop has had its day:

“Bookshops have made real progress by including specifically lesbian and gay books on their shelves, both generally and in special sections. The very fact that it is thinking of closing may mean that its work is done.”

But there’s more to GTW than providing a real-world, specialist shopping experience. I’m shocked at the use of the word ‘only’ in this part of the same news story:

Today, the only homophobia the shop suffers is ‘a brick through the window once a year and twice a week people spit on the windows,’.

Work not quite done there, I feel.