I took my birthday off to have lunch with a friend and wander the West Village. After lunch and Big Gay Ice Cream, we wandered into Three Lives and Company Bookstore.
Three Lives has the greatest LGBT sections of any bookstore. Since the store is so small – the gay book section isn’t marked, none of their sections are. But if you walk in you’ll find it toward the left near the staff stairs to the stockroom.
It seems almost rude in retrospect, but I complained to the staff that there just weren’t many good gay books out right now. I’d read so many of the books in their LGBT section. A great guy – I wish I knew his name – came over to help me.
First, I asked him about Ross Raisin’s new book A Natural that I’d read about in the New York Times. While strangely it wasn’t in their gay book section, they had it in stock. That was my first book on my birthday to buy pile. Sports books with gay main characters are rare, so this is a find. I’m was interested in how A Natural sits with the murky day to day grind of the business side of football. I am very interested in novels that show gay men at work; Adam Haslett’s Union Atlantic is my favorite.
After suggesting some books I’d already read, he recommended Sergio Y by Alexandre Vidal Porto, a Brazilian novel translated from Portuguese. This short book captures a psychologist near the end of his career and an intriguing patient. The man in Three Lives told me to just dive into the book and trust his recommendation, without reading any of the reviews or jacket copy. And so I did. It was one of the best birthday presents I’d given myself in a while.
The last book I picked up at three lives was Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me by Bill Hayes. I’d thought about reading this book before, but it never reached the top of my to-read pile because I wasn’t familiar with the work of Oliver Sachs (shame on me!). I am glad Three Lives put this book in my hands because it is one of the best and most creative books I read this year. I love a downtown New York City story and this is it: quiet and carefully written with fresh observations about our city that never sleeps. I wish that perhaps the book went deeper into coming out issues and age disparity in relationships, but maybe that would have broken the mood of this memoir.
I bought my books and headed across the street to Julius’, a bar with a rich history and one of New York City’s oldest gay bars. I’m deliberately not linking to any of these books because I’m hoping you’ll be able to buy them from your own local book store or you’ll call or email Three Lives and ask them to ship these to you. I never would have read Insomniac City or Sergio Y without the recommendations from Three Lives. We need to support their business.