Monday, April 13, 2009


Their glittering eyes are gay

My days as an Amazon pundit are pretty much behind me, but I couldn't resist wading in when I heard about the company's new anti-gay algorithm. That's right, it seems that hundreds of books by (mostly) gay authors have been stripped of their sales rankings and excluded, in some cases, from product searches. I can hardly imagine somebody at Amazon dreaming up this retail pogrom, and assume it was either a botched implementation of a different initiative or some hacker's idea of a great joke. In either case, the company has some explaining to do. Here's a bit from my post over on the Propeller blog:
A cursory trawl of the Amazon site reveals a crazy quilt of exclusionary bloopers. John Fox's The Boys on the Rocks, a gay coming-of-age story that is not remotely pornographic, with a cover endorsement by the straight-as-an-arrow Richard Price, has no sales ranking. Meanwhile, something called Slave Boy, whose surfeit of graphic detail has caused even the publisher to issue a consumer alert, is still ranked (at a very decent 3,296, by the way).

As noted by the Jacket Copy blog at the Los Angeles Times, Paul Monette's Becoming a Man, which won the 1992 National Book Award, has been bumped to the back of the bus. So has Radclyffe Hall's 1928 classic The Well of Loneliness. Now, the sexual content in Hall's novel, which occasioned a public scandal and lengthy court battle before it could be passed through U.S. Customs, is limited to seven words: "and that night, they were not divided." Something tells me that Lights, Camera, Sex!, by porn star Christy Canyon, has a much higher smut ratio. Shouldn't this fall under the proud, saucy banner of "adult" content? Yet it retains its sales ranking, possibly because the star of I Like To Be Watched settled down into a healthy monogamous relationship at the end of the book.
You can read the whole thing, which includes a misty-eyed glimpse down Memory Lane to my own tenure at the company, here.

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