Historically funny bookstore

Lower Gerrard’s books and souvenirs store had a sense of humour, once upon a time. John Robert Colombo tells the story …


Long before we met Bill Andersen, Ruth and I would stroll with our friend Suparna along Gerrard Street East. While the ladies were shopping for fabrics and dresses, I would wander into the souvenir store — Hindu but not so identified — to purchase a couple of paperback books of Indian jokes and anecdotes.

I did this once or twice a year for perhaps ten years. One day I noticed that the store looked different on the outside — it was now painted green. I did not give this a second thought until I entered the store and mechanically headed over to the joke book section. There were mounds of Korans.

One of the clerks — who did not look at all bookish — stared at me staring at the Korans. I said, “Where are the joke books?” He said nothing. I said, “Is this store under new management?” He walked away. I briskly walked around, found no joke books — indeed, hardly any publications in English — and then left, not to return.

4 thoughts on “Historically funny bookstore

  1. I can just see John looking at the Korans and asking for joke books. Makes me smile.

    I have never been inside the Islamic Bookstore, having no need of its products, but I have always admired the simple clarity of its signage and the dignified restraint of its exterior design.

    Some of the souvenirs in the window appear gaudy, shiny and cheap in comparison … a bit tacky, like carnival prizes. The contrast surprises me.

  2. I don’t know if it’s relevant but here is a well known quote by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. “Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.”


    Reminds me a bit of the vertically challenged, strap wielding, quick drawing, penguin suited principal of my parochial grade school, Mother Saint Roberts. She didn’t believe in fun either.

    Myself, in my old age, lean more towards the teachings of Haille and his chief missionary Bob. I love their relaxed philosophy and their catchy slogan; Onward Buffalo Soldiers.

    Go Rasta!

  3. It’s a wonder to me that so many followers pay any attention to people who dump on happiness, joy and laughter. Fear of the beatings may have something to do with it. Haha!

  4. Some time ago, and being nosy, I went into the Islamic Bookstore to buy a copy of the Koran; I too found the clerk rather on the cool side. Anyway I paid my ten bucks and headed home for good dose of enlightenment.

    Now, as I no longer have that particular book, I can only paraphrase what I found stamped on the back of the last page. And just like the Gideon Bible you find in motel rooms, it went something like, “This copy of the Holy Koran is our free gift to you. Please take it when you leave, and may Allah go with you.”

    Ripped off again!

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