Back at Boarding School: Cracks and Report for Murder

Gloomy corridors. Cramped dormitories. Musty books. Secret societies. Arcane traditions. Eccentric teachers. Murder, suicide, mayhem. To what do I refer? Boarding school, of course! From Jane Eyre to Harry Potter, it’s where all the best stuff seems to happen. And lately, I can’t seem to get away from it. First up: the movie Cracks. Think of this as Dead Poets Society with better clothes, a hotter Captain (the deliciously troubled and unstable Eva Green), lesbian overtones, and arguably an even darker ending. It’s a little A Separate Peace crossed with the marvelous gothic setting of A Great and Terrible Beauty—or anything written by a Bronte. Meet my new crush, Juno Temple:

Then there’s Val McDermid’s Report for Murder (Bywater Books, originally published 1987) set at the Derbyshire House Girls’ School and introducing her socialist lesbian feminist journalist/detective Lindsay Gordon who likes a good stiff drink and a good strong curry…and Cordelia. One of McDermid’s early books, I’m sure it’s not as skilled or polished as her more recent ones (bitchy musician strangled with her cello string in a locked room—who dunnit?) but it’s the perfect rainy Sunday afternoon read and since I’m so bad at solving mysteries it had me gripping my holdall to the very end. Another category down on my Lammy challenge.

There are few businesses more challenged that bookselling right now so I was saddened to hear that San Francisco’s LGBT store A Different Light is set to close. But I was even sadder to read one of owner Bill Barker’s reasons for the closure: “I think that you can only tell the gay and lesbian story so many times.”

Really? Seriously? That’s complete poppycock. The gay and lesbian story is as infinite and varied as any other human experience and there’s certainly a lot more to be written on it. Can it be published successfully and support a bookstore? Well, that’s a different question altogether.

With the growth of the online retailers and digital books, indies face a lot of competition and challenges. Many fail. Many are hanging on by their fingernails. All of them are trying to figure out what to do to survive and questioning how they can best serve their customers. LGBTQ bookstores are no different and face a host of unique issues not the least of which is, do we even need gay bookstores anymore? But once an existential crisis about the value of authors and books arises, it is time to pack up shop and move to Bermuda. A belief in writers and the power of the written word is the most basic and valuable thing a bookstore brings to a community, and from those comments, it seems that belief has left the building of A Different Light. And that saddens me…and Thomas Roche in a good piece in the SF Appeal. Thoughts?

I know I’ll hear some thoughts on this one: Peeta and Gale have been found! Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right, top) will play the baker’s son and Liam Hemsworth (The Last Song, bottom, though really I have no clue about sexual position preferences…) is set to play Katniss’s best friend. I’m not so keen on Liam….

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