Sunday, April 12, 2009

C. P. Cavafy, homoerotic poems, and Amazon.com

Tomorrow night Cooper Union in Manhattan will host a celebration of Daniel Mendelsohn's terrific new versions of Cavafy. Daniel will speak about Cavafy's development as a poet and Olympia Dukakis, Maria Tucci and I will read from the poems. Glamorous company!

It's strange to think that were Cavafy writing now, a good many of his poems might not be welcome at Amazon, where the company has instituted a weird new policy of identifying books they classify as "adult material" and leaving these titles out of their sales rankings and thus off their bestseller lists. But what they're really doing is targeting gay and lesbian content. It's an ugly act of discrimination, and results in weird selections: a book of Playboy's best centerfolds has a sales ranking, for instance, while Mark Wunderlich's book of poems VOLUNTARY SERVITUDE does not. Neither does Paul's LAWNBOY, or Andre Aciman's beautiful novel CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, or my own HEAVEN'S COAST, or even books on healthy living for HIV-positive men. It's outrageous. The best solution, of course, is to take your business elsewhere; everyone benefits from having strong, local and independent booksellers in our communities. But also let Amazon know what you think. There's a rapidly expanding petition drive over at the excellent activist website run by Care2.

6 comments:

Collin Kelley said...

Mark, folks using Twitter have made the Amazon debacle the trending topic and forced Amazon to respond this evening. Amazon calls it a "glitch" that they will fix immediately. Of course, this is a giant load of BS, but the PR fallout is making them backtrack big time. Social networking activism lives. See you soon.

Nancy Devine said...

Like Collin, I've watched this Amazon thing unfold on Twitter. Social networking activism is really amazing...maybe we can change the world.

AskRyan said...

Turns out it's actually the work of the hacker Weev. He admitted to it here, on his blog: http://community.livejournal.com/brutal_honesty/3168992.html.

C. Dale said...

Amazon now states it was an error and not a hacker.

charmingbilly2 said...

i was so disappointed to hear this. i live in "the sticks" with no real independant booksellers nearby and have to drive more than an hour to visit a large bookseller which despite an ocean of shelfspace devotes less than 24" of it to anything and everything "gay" which seems to be only stroke books and self-esteem manuals. online retailers such as amazon are real life savers for those of us in relative isolation and this "invisibling" on their part towards the community (us!) is beyond hurtful. thank you for spreading the word.

Denise Sebesta Lanier said...

Here in S. FL, we have Books & Books, and you can shop them online as well. I love doing business with them--because I know where my money is going. I can vouch for the owner (and his fair beliefs & practices) personally.

Also, charmingbilly2, do you know about Half.com? They don't carry all the new releases--but it usually only takes a couple weeks for newer books to show up on the inventory. When I lived in a log cabin in Wimberly, TX, Half.com saved my life!