Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Giovanni's Room Shuttering for Good; Larry Kramer's AIDS Comments

Giovanni's Room Shuttering for Good

It's believed to be the oldest LGBTI bookstore in the US, and this May Giovanni's Room will be Shuttering its doors forever. I've been shopping there myself for a long time and it was the first LGBTI bookstore I ever visited. The owner, Ed Hermance, had planned to sell the business but the buyer couldn't come up with the funds. Hermance also said the money he's lost made it impossible to keep the bookstore open any longer.

He blamed retailers such as Amazon for the tough environment independent bookstores are currently facing.

“The government is allowing Amazon to tighten their fingers around the throats of the publishers and drive their retail competitors out of the business by clearly monopolistic methods,” he said.

Hermance said there is a possibility that Giovanni’s Room could be resurrected in some form, but said ideas would have to change in order for it to be successful.

“Whatever it is that they do, it will have to be something different than what we are doing now. If won’t survive if it isn’t different,” he said.


Read more:
PGN-The Philadelphia Gay News. Phila gay news. philly news - PGN exclusive Giovanni s Room to close next month

There's a press conference tonight, and if there's anything worth repeating I'll follow up on it tomorrow.

While I find it a shame to see GR close, because it's really the end of an era in many ways. I don't believe Amazon or other online retailers made it a tough environment alone, nor do I think anyone has their fingers around the throats of publishers. In the past decade never before in the history of publishing have there been as many LGBTI books published and self-published. Never before have writers had the opportunity to make even a slight living by writing LGBTI books. But most important, never before have readers had so many choices when buying LGBTI books. If anything, the old publishing system had its fingers around the throats of writers, and gatekeepers, including bookstore owners, only gave a select few the opportunity to be heard.  

The fact is that life has changed, reading habits have changed, and we've been moving toward a new era for at least the past five years. And I'm only talking about publishing now, not everything in retail.

You can read more here.

Larry Kramer's AIDS Comments

With the date to air The Normal Heart film adaptation in May approaching fast, Larry Kramer has been on a major public relations binge that's only going to increase in the next few weeks. In this article he talks about how making this film is a highly charged personal political statement, and he makes a few good points and a few I'm not sure I understand. You see that's because I was there, and I lived through those times, too. I was very young, but missed nothing. And my own experiences with AIDS didn't just stop in the 1980's, and I've never made a dime from those experiences.

Kramer says in a new promo video released by HBO: 'How do you get attention when the mayor (Ed Koch) doesn't care? When the president (Ronald Reagan) doesn't care? When the commissioner of health doesn't care? When the gay world doesn't care? The gay world did not want to know about this illness.'

I do recall the silence with both Mayor Koch and President Reagan. All politicians went dead silent. It's almost the same kind of silence we've seen with politicians like President Obama and Hillary Clinton with gay marriage up until recently. They weren't very vocal about it either. This is what politicians do in all things too controversial.

However, I don't recall the same silence Kramer mentions within the gay community, at least not within my circles. We knew what was happening, we wanted to know what was happening, and many of us took precautions because of what was happening. I can recall a time when gay men would go to a bar and order straight alcohol instead of a mixed drink thinking that the straight alcohol would kill AIDS germs. It sounds ridiculous now, but that's because we really didn't know all the facts about AIDS back then. No one really did. As we learned more, all that changed.

So while I'm sure certain people within the gay community didn't want to know about AIDS, I can state from personal experience that many did want to know about it and they cared about what was happening. I have one of the first works of fiction I ever wrote for an AIDS organization in Philadelphia in my files waiting to be re-released. I only have it in hard copy but I'm going to scan it eventually and publish it here on the blog...for free.

I've also had my own personal devastating experiences with people I know who have had AIDS. I can tell you everything you need to know, from PCP to IRIS. So Larry Kramer doesn't know all there is about AIDS or what happened back then. I'm not trying to diminish his personal experiences, but I don't like it when other gay men speak for me, or about me. There are many of us who know as much, if not more, only we haven't tried to make money on it. Most of us have been trying to make money FOR AIDS. I've always thought it uncouth for me to write about my personal experiences with AIDS, as intense as they have been. But I'm starting to rethink that, especially when I listen to Larry Kramer promote his experiences.

You can read more here.

2 comments:

G. A. Hauser said...

When A Different Light closed in San Francisco, it left very few choices for book signings. I loved them, they loved me. And now they are gone. My next book signing is in a gay bar in WeHo, Where else are we left to go? Conventions? Yeck. No thank you!
while I do agree with your blog, and the snobbery of some of the big retail bookstores to never even consider carrying our books, I will forever miss ADL.... great blog, Ryan..

ryan field said...

I always liked knowing that Giovanni's Room was so close to me. But the guy can't stay in business for practical reasons, which is a shame. I'll miss it, too. I'm actually hoping that someone can save it at the final hour. I'm an optimist that way. I do think small bookshops can continue IF they look at the business angle a different way. In other words, sell something else, too. I owned an art gallery in New Hope for ten years and I couldn't just sell art. I had to sell a variety of things, at different price points...decorative pillows, lamps, jewelry, etc... It was the only way to survive. I would have loved to just sell art. But that wasn't realistic.

I'm with you about conventions. I think they're good for some, but not for me.