Marking the longevity of Toronto's most popular independent bookstore is a pleasant occasion, especially in light of fellow non-commercial bookstore Pages's recent closure. Founded by Charles Huisken in the same year as Pages, This Ain't opened on Queen St. E in 1979, before moving to its longtime residence at Church and Wellesley in 1986. It called the heart of The Village home until July 2008, when it moved to its present location in Kensington Market.
The bookstore is well-known for its involvement with Canadian underground culture, encouraging and stimulating the works of local talent. It holds an impressive history of visits and readings by authors such as Hunter S. Thomson, William S. Burroughs, and Alison Bechdel, to name a few. This Ain't continues to play host to an array of readings and literary happenings, so it's easy to find yourself spending several hours there each week.
In a dimly-lit Brigantine Room, bill bissett takes a sip from his bottle of water before bestowing the crowd with an impromptu poetic treat: “Standing, sitting, breathing, in the universe. With all the candlelight, you're all stars.” Captivating the room with his unique musical, trance-inducing poetry performance, bissett pauses to remark, “I love Charlie. When I got eye surgery, he put eye-drops in my eye three times a day. When I got Hep C, he visited me in the hospital.”
The bookstore, as well being the best place to find small-press publications, graphic novels, counter-cultural nonfiction, and an extensive collection of poetry, is also a place where both authors and customers associate personal memories and a kind familiarity. Canadian fiction writer and poet, Stuart Ross, expresses the fondness he had, and still has, for the “inclusive” and “alternative” bookstore, whose staff supported his small publication in its early days.
Charles Huisken's genuine love for good reading and all things art rubbed off on his son, Jesse, who began helping his dad run the store in 2008. New fans and loyal customers alike look forward to seeing This Ain't around for another thirty years, continuing to be, as CBC Radio's Jowi Taylor puts it, "a safe, comfortable place to explore so many crazy writers."
This Ain't the Rosedale Library is located at 86 Nassau St.