RIP Pages, Seen Reading

July 9, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

It’s not a good day to be a book lover in Toronto. According to an e-mail press release that was sent out this morning, Pages Books & Magazines, the downtown institution that specialized in small press, cultural theory, avant-garde, and literary titles is shutting its doors as of August 31. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Pages’ debut on the corner of Queen and John Streets.

Skyrocketing rent is blamed for the closure, although the press release also mentions the character of the Queen Street neighbourhood, which is not what it was 30 years ago:

“When we opened on the corner of Queen and John 30 years ago, it was where artists lived and worked,” says proprietor Marc Glassman, who heads up the Queen West Business Improvement Association. “Now our neighbours are CTV, The Gap, and Club Monaco.”

Or, as NOW Magazine puts it:

The neighbourhood Pages will leave behind isn’t – and long hasn’t been – the one it helped forge. The store, which opened in 1979, is no longer part of a punk-inhabited art scene. The ’hood’s long been ultra-FCUK-ed.

Earlier this year, Pages received a six-month stay of execution when the landlord agreed not to raise the property’s rent, but that agreement expires at the end of August. Glassman had been scouting an alternate location for the store, but found nothing suitable. The loss of the alternative independent will be deeply felt by literary types in the city, who counted on Pages to stock the kind of edgy, idiosyncratic fare that big-box chain stores wouldn’t carry. Glassman says that he’s not ruled out reopening elsewhere should the opportunity present itself, but for now, it looks like the end of an era for the city.

Another Toronto-based institution, Julie Wilson’s Seen Reading, is also being shuttered, at least in its current incarnation. In a message on her site, Wilson said that after three years, she’s decided to wrap up her project in literary voyeurism, which has become a popular destination for online literary types. She plans to keep the site as a personal blog.

According to Wilson:

I’m renewing my efforts to craft a collection of microfiction loosely based on the over 300 sightings amassed here. This will be, I hope, the first in a series of such collections. I haven’t abandoned my novel; I’m simply allowing myself to own that this is voodoo that I do do (she said, doo doo) so well. That I should also enjoy writing it as much as I enjoy eating orange creamsicles and drinking french-pressed coffee is what makes life hella kinda cool.

The decision to shift focus comes a scant two months after expanding the site by bringing on writers from other parts of the country. Vancouver’s Monique Trottier, Montreal’s Saleema Nawaz, and Nova Scotia’s Ami McKay will publish their final Seen Reading posts in the first week of August.


2 Responses to “RIP Pages, Seen Reading”
  1. Jai says:

    Very dispiriting. I’ve been a customer of Pages since moving here in the early ’80s and it is one of the few reasons I had left for venturing down as far a Queen Street.

  2. Panic says:

    Nooooooo! Pages! NOOOOOOO!
    That was one of the very first places I ever went in Toronto. My friend said “You have to see this place. I grew up coming here.” Pages IS this city to me, to so many, in such an integral way. I hope they can find new space soon.