Volume 95, Issue 63

Thursday, January 24, 2002
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London Underground

London's most famous Office

Form Moby Dick to Harlequin romance

The world of alternative cinema

Art outside the clique

Boneyard Man: still searching for wider acceptance

Lizards, Trixie and original fashion

Form Moby Dick to Harlequin romance

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

According to Teresa Tarasewicz, if you want to find underground culture in London, you have to seek it out. And nowhere in this city is the underground more celebrated than at City Lights Books.

Pleasing culture vultures since the 1970s, City Lights (356 Richmond St., 679-8420) offers a wide selection of used books, music and movies – everything from Harlequin romance novels and pornographic magazines to political and philosophical tracts and celebrated literary works.

Customers can almost always find what they are looking for and merchandise is generally quite affordable. The store even has bins out front with free books in them, so no one ever has to leave empty-handed.

"We let people come in and find out what they like and they can explore and discover all kinds of literature that's sitting here, that's affordable, that they can take away with them," she said.

Tarasewicz and her business partner, Jim Capel, took over City Lights in 1992, though the store itself has been open for 26 years. They seek to keep the spirit of book-selling alive, though they have formidable opponents in the form of video games and the Internet, not to mention chain-stores like Chapters and Indigo.

On an average day, a couple hundred people sift through the cramped shelves and narrow passageways at City Lights, while an eclectic, culturally-savvy staff of eight look on, always willing to lend a hand, but also willing to let customers explore on their own for hours on end.

City Lights is dubbed "Ontario's most unusual bookstore" and its staff pride themselves on living up to this mantra, she said. There are signs, posters, creative displays and newspaper clippings on every wall and records hanging from the ceiling.

"How we present ourselves is a great part of the underground," Tarasewicz said.

As for City Lights' clientele, well, it's about as broad as its selection.

On any given day, a wide range of people – from young children to seniors, employed and unemployed, educated and uneducated – stop by the store to get lost in its cluttered beauty.

Further Reading: There are a number of other used books and music stores in London worth checking out. For music, try Dr.Disc (357 Clarence St., 438-8494) or Speed City Records (428 Richmond St., 858-2680). For books, stop by Attic Books (240 Dundas St., 432-7277).

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Copyright The Gazette 2001