Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Glad Day: An Interview with Marcus McCann

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This is the start of my last week as Open Book's Writer in Residence. But much more excitingly, we're also in the middle of Pride Week, which gives me an excuse to post about Glad Day Bookshop, the world's oldest LGBTQ bookstore.

In the spirit of 'shut up and let the smart people talk,' I've sent some questions to Marcus McCann about the store. Marcus is a poet and a former editor of Xtra. His latest book is The Hard Return (Insomniac, 2012).

Interview time!

Andrew: It seems to me that one of Glad Day Bookshop’s great successes—and one of the reasons its survived for so long — is its importance to diverse communities of people. The store also seems to host a lot more non-book events than most other bookstores. What is the relationship between the Glad Day the LGBTQ community?

Marcus: When we took over Glad Day in 2012, we took a calculated risk. We decided to expand our lease to take over some additional space: a big, airy, freshly renovated room with blank walls and a lot of potential. For the first time in years, Glad Day has been able to host events — from book launches to full on parties in that space.

It’s been really great to see the space used. People host meetings during the day, there are play rehearsals, workshops, dance lessons. And yeah, lots of book launches and parties in the evening too. I was staffing the book table at Jordaan Mason’s launch for The Skin Team (a great book) last week, and it was a full house, 50+ people, and I got this smug little feeling and it just wouldn’t go away.

Our biggest limitation at the moment is that we’re on the second and third floors (at 598A Yonge St, just north of Wellesley St), so it’s not fully accessible for folks of diverse abilities and also some older people. It sucks, and we know it’s a problem, and we’re working on it.

Andrew: Speaking of LGBTQ literature, this is the part of the interview where I should ask some interesting questions about what’s happening in queer lit. But I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know enough to do so. Can you catch me up, and give our readers (and me!) a bit of a primer?

Marcus: Andrew! Hide your shame!

In the 1990s, Jane Rule wrote that it’s no longer enough for gays and lesbians to tell their stories — the stories have to be good too. There was a sense that LGBTQ people were hungering for representation, to see themselves in literature. That’s still true, but naked representation isn’t enough… Ugh. I’m totally just parroting John Barton’s introduction to Seminal a few years ago. That’s another great book. But it’s true, right?

But what about older LGBTQ titles? I think one of the problems with publishing in general, and queer books in particular, is that books get published and they are in stores for six months and then they’re gone, and in a few years, you can’t even find them online. Out of print. Completely disappeared. It’s like they never happened.

One of the very coolest things about Glad Day is that it has, like, 40 years of back stock. Often, we’re the only place left where you can find some of these titles.

Andrew: In early 2012 Glad Day was sold to a 22-member collective. Now that you’ve all been running the store for over a year now, could you talk a little about the experience and what the results have been thus far? Does the collective model offer possibilities for other bookstores as well?

Marcus: Working with our friends and lovers and community is really powerful. There’s no doubt that together we can do things that we can’t do on our own. None of us could have kept Glad Day running by ourselves. But that’s not a limitation. Collaboration isn’t a limitation. It’s an opportunity.

Luckily, we’re not the only ones who have a stake in Glad Day. There are all of the previous owners, and all our customers, and the writers who never turn us down when we ask them to read at our events — I’m thinking of Farzana Doctor and S Bear Bergman in particular, and, really, just so many people in the writers’ community in Toronto.

Having said that, we’re not all involved on a day-to-day basis. You have to hand it to Michael Erickson and Andy Wang and the rest of the folks on our board who just pour hours and hours into Glad Day. And we have an incredible staff — genius people, creative, queer, kinky souls — working for us.

So. Yes. The joint ownership model is great, and exhausting, and a work in progress, and would be impossible if it weren’t for everyone who constantly, constantly steps up to the plate. If that sounds like fun for you, then maybe it’s a good template.

Andrew: Glad Day is hosting a number of events over the week for Pride. Which events of yours would I be making a mistake to miss? And which non-Glad Day Pride events are you most looking forward to?

Marcus: Well. Do yourself a favour and go to Bent Over… With Laughter on Saturday (June 29th). It’s free, it’s an early show (starts at 5pm) in our third floor space. Bear Bergman, Paul Bellini, Catherine Hernandez and Tom Cho. You’ll be sad if you miss it. I will judge you.

I mean, there are literally a million things going on this week. There’s a performance piece by Kate Barry called “Lesbian love letters”, a queers of colour open mic, a reading of old essays from The Body Politic. Visit us on Facebook for a full listing of events, or better yet, just come down to the store and look around and see what you like.

Pride events outside of Glad Day? I’ve always loved the Green Space on Church, a giant outdoor party with proceeds going to the 519 Church St Community Centre. They do it from Thurs-Sunday, but this year the Sunday portion is in a new location, at the Ryerson Quad, so I’m curious to see how that goes. And Blockorama, obviously. It always has the best music and the best vibe after the parade.

Andrew: Rob Ford (finally!) attended the flag-raising ceremony this year but there’s still a long way to go. Which titles would you recommend that our mayor read?

Marcus: We have some really great bear porn which he might be interested in.

Speaking for myself, I don’t really care if the mayor comes to Pride. Pride is about us, not about him. For my part, so long as we can keep him from messing with funding for the parade, and funding for HIV prevention work, and cultural funding generally (and his hands off bike lanes and libraries, and, and, and…), I’d be happy. Frankly, I wish he would stay at his cottage year round. Pride Week — and Glad Day — are just fine without him.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Andrew Faulkner

Andrew Faulkner co-curates The Emergency Response Unit, a chapbook press. His first book, Need Machine, was published by Coach House Books in April 2013. He lives in Toronto.

Go to Andrew Faulkner’s Author Page