London Book Buying


Gay’s the Word is an essential stop for us whenever we visit London. This time around, we picked up Alexis De Veaux’s Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde (2004) in the used section for £5. The used shelves also yielded up a couple of good lesbian short story collections: Anna Livia and Lilian Mohan (eds.) The Pied Piper: Lesbian Feminist Fiction (1989), which contains stories by the likes of Gillian Hanscombe, Patricia Duncker and Mary Dorcey, and Ruthann Robson’s Lambda nominated Eye of a Hurricane (1989).


Andy bought a new copy of Lolly Willows (1926) by Sylvia Townsend Warner. This is a novel about a middle-aged spinster who abandons her family responsibilities to become a witch. She also got Ash (2009) by Malinda Lo, which is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella and had the shop assistant raving. Apparently, he’s bought it for all his friends.

That wasn’t the end of the book-buying spree because, on the way to meet some friends, we happened upon the used books display outside socialist bookshop, Bookmarks. I got a nice copy of Christopher Isherwood’s Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935). I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since it was recommended to me by a twitter acquaintance, John Beecher, who died in March last year. I enjoyed his tweets and will always think of him when I read Isherwood.

Perhaps my favourite find at Bookmarks is this collection of science fiction stories by women, The Eye of the Heron and Other Stories (1980).
It’s edited by Virginia Kidd and I like the way Le Guin’s fame is used to give props to lesser known female writers like Elizabeth A. Lynn. It’s even prefaced with a poem by Marilyn Hacker. Sisterhood!


I also picked up a copy of China Mieville’s Kraken (2010). I enjoyed reading The City and The City last year but, if I’m honest, I was mainly motivated to buy it by the opening sentence on the blurb:

“Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a lifetime: a perfect and perfectly preserved, giant squid. But what does it mean when the creature suddenly and impossibly disappears?”

Natural History Museum? Giant squid? SOLD.

Finally, we visited Oxfam where I got a copy of Jacklight (1996), which is a collection of poems by Louise Erdrich. I’ve read a few of her poems here and there and was intrigued by this article about her fiction in The Paris Review. I’ve only glanced at the poetry so far  and it looks quite unsettling.

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