The Circus of Books Review – Nothing ‘Cocky’ about it

The Circus of Books Review – Nothing ‘Cocky’ about it
Movie Rated


For over 35 years, the gay porn shop Circus of Books gave Los Angeles’ LGBT+ community a space to socialize and celebrate themselves without judgment. Executive produced by Ryan Murphy, Circus of Books is the debut documentary from artist Rachel Mason, who finally asks the least radical people she knows- her parents- how they became American''s biggest distributors of gay porn. Only on Netflix April 22.

Format: Documentary 
Platform: Netflix
Movie Rated: 18+
Genre: Biopic, Documentary 

What is the story about? 
Karen and Barry are a straightforward Jewish couple living in the heart of West Hollywood, that is famously known as ‘Boystown’. For almost three decades the couple’s been involved in selling movies and books to the gay community, through their bookshop called, ‘The Circus of Books’. The ‘Circus of Books’ has served as a vantage point for most gay couples. The store has enabled them to feel one with the world, and come out of the closet without the fear of being judged. Karen and Barry who are religious Jews had kept this secret of their members of the community, family and friends, as they were worried about being ostracized. They also did what they did to protect their children from being cast away. They were desperate for their children to have a normal childhood, and they managed that successfully by also paying for their college fees as they grew up. Rachel Moss who is the producer and director of the show is Barry and Kate’s daughter. She wants to cast her parents in a heroic light, but is she successfully able to do so? 

Since this is a documentary film, its real people, speaking their hearts out. The emotions are exacting, and nobody flinches from speaking the truth about what they’ve felt about the ‘Circus of Books’, and Karen and Barry alike. 


Rachel has put her best foot forward at putting her parents on the heroic front, however, there are times that the narrative does get patchy. This holds true when Rachel attempts to bring forth the truth to Barry’s imprisonment. She is unable to speak to suss out the exacti
ng details concerning the same.

However, there is a heartfelt response to all those died of suffering from aids. That portion of the documentary film was heart-warming and brings tears to my eyes. 

It is interesting to learn of Karen and Barry’s response to their son coming out of the closet and declaring he’s gay. It was a mixed response and that was brought out very clearly in the interview. Rachel captures every emotion of how her brother had felt during that time though the interview. This moment also touches one's heart. 

Music and other departments 
The production was rustic, but the bucolic feel adds to
the natural charm of the documentary film. The editing is pretty raw, which doesn’t exactly help at delivering the film to the best of its ability. 

The interviews are well conducted. Karen and Barry have diligently walked us down every decade, describing the evolution of the LGBT emancipation over the years. They have, in their own way stated, not all sorrows are put to rest, but at least we can make peace with a lot of these facts. After all, parents are the wisest only for a short window gap. They can show their children the path, but directing them all the way through wouldn’t be a nice thing to do. 


Sometimes Rachel’s questions could get slightly misleading, taking us off point. She should’ve been a little more careful about keeping to the track. 


Did I enjoy it? 
Considering the fact I’m personally smitten by community studies, history and the evolution of movements, I was completely absorbed. However, concerning the LGBT movements, and the significance of its impact on society, this proves to be an interesting watch. 


Do I recommend it? 
Yes indeed! 


Report a problem


Subscribe to our feeds