Our story: rabble's book lounge launches in 70s style

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On April 18, 2011, rabble celebrated its 10th anniversary. Highlighting 10 important moments of rabble's history over the course of our 10th year, current and former people involved with rabble have been asked to share their personal highlights from their time with rabble. This monthly rabble history series elaborates on some of the most common highlights submitted. The first piece published on our birthday appears here.

We also know that many of you have your own ideas of what the highlights of rabble's 10 years have been, and we want to know what you think. If you have thoughts on how you'd like to see us grow, please share as well in the comments section below.

Highlight: The launch of the rabble book lounge

The unofficial launch of rabble's book lounge combined guerrilla stealth and performance art at the Toronto Word On The Street Festival in September 2005.

"I found this 70s crazy ugly shag rug, Jane had a lava lamp and there were other people who contributed to this guerrilla lounge theme," recalls the lounge's founding editor, Lisa Rundle. The unofficial presence of this retro lounge, set up between tables at Word On The Street, wasn't entirely appreciated by festival organizers so it simply moved across the street.

Book lounge launch

Launch events planned included a panel with authors Camilla Gibb and Susan Swan moderated by Judy Rebick about the relationship between fiction and activism. Bookmarks with the new lounge slogan "bound but not gagged" were handed out to intrigued passersby drawn in by the psychedelic scene.

Yes, the beginnings of the lounge -- like the site itself -- were rooted in rabble rousing.

"In the same way that rabble news and views tries to cover stories left out of the mainstream media, the goal of the book lounge was to cover books considered too small or too politically left," says Rundle.

"It's such a hard slog to be a writer out there but books are so important politically for our social movements, and for feeding our spirits."

Book lounge 2007

Designed by Jane Will and Brian Sharpe with illustrations by kristi-ly green, the original lounge was also a place to shop for books online. The bookstore, launched with assistance from the popular education community organization Catalyst Centre, was an alternative revenue stream and place for publishers to promote their books (in partnership with the York University Bookstore). Matt Adams, from Catalyst, first joined rabble to manage the relationship with the bookstore.

In addition to reviews, the book lounge has also been a place for technological experimentation. "radio book lounge," the lounge podcast -- which features book news, author interviews and readings -- was one of the first podcasts on the site when the rabble podcast network launched later that year.

In 2006, Wayne MacPhail launched a virtual branch of the book lounge in Second Life where cyber-readings were held with Don Tapscott and Kyo Maclear.

Six years and a relaunch later, the book lounge's aims are the same: its weekly reviews feature political and fringe fiction titles by independent authors and publishers marginalized by the mainstream media. The "book-it" events listing and the "top 5 indie bestsellers list" help to promote local events and titles organized by independent bookstores and publishers. "babble book lounge," a virtual book club, is a place for discussions about favourite books and authors.

Currently, the book lounge is edited by Alexandra Samur, who began at rabble in 2006 as a book lounge intern. The Bound But Not Gagged blog, launched in 2008, is curated by Noreen Mae Ritsema. The book lounge wouldn't be possible without its many contributors, volunteers and interns that help to keep it a vibrant, diverse destination for rabble readers.

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Further Reading

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