383 Lafayette Street
The large building that is Tower Books stands high over Lafayette street, it's yellow and red signs beckoning customers for blocks. It might appear at first that this is a typical Tower store, with it's chain store mentality and run of the mill selection. In this particular store, that's far from the truth. Apparently, the East Village aesthetic and tastes rubbed off on this store, all for the better.
The first floor is part video store and part magazine shop. The Video store has all sorts of goodies, both for sale and rental. Music videos abound, as do some of the more independent and alternative films. The magazine section rivals alternative bookstores in the area, containing a wide variety of fanzines, foreign magazines, and fetish magazines. The obligatory Goth and Industrial periodicals are always in stock, including Carpe Noctem, Permission, Delirium, Industrial Nation, and others. The fetish section has all sorts of bondage, S/M and interesting finds, as well as piercing and tattoo mags from all over. NME and Melody Maker, the music papers in Britain, are always in stock as well. The magazine department is impressive, and even more so when you think about the fact that it is Tower.
The second floor is the heart of the bookstore. It's sprawling size is almost as impressive as the selection itself. This Tower has not forgotten that it takes all sorts to make the world go around, as is evident in what they've stocked. The fantasy and horror section is well stocked: many authors are represented, as well as the mainstays that have received accolades from the masses. This is one of the few stores that has a large selection of books by Thomas Ligotti, as well as HP Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, and other "off the beaten path" authors.
Their fiction and literature section is also impressive. Tower tends to stock books that I have yet to see turn up in supposedly more "literary" stores such as Barnes and Noble. Their erotica section is top-notch, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and S/M books in abundance. Their comic section of TPBs is also impressive, and includes new as well as old books, mainly sticking to the DC Vertigo books, and selected independents.
Tower has much more to offer though. As far as "counter culture" sections go, they have many books on the occult, including, but not limited to, Wicca, Satanism, Shamanism, and Norse faiths. Books on Vampirism abound, as well as photo books on blood fetish. Books on Gothic culture sit next to books on anarchy which sit next to books on corsetry. Really, this store aims to have a bit of everything and succeeds.
Commentary by Joan Rachel Dennis, Monday, January 12, 1998.