People / Merwyn “Binky” Marks

Bookseller. Born in Toronto in 1910, Merwyn “Binky” Marks studied English, history, and economics at the University of Toronto. Marks had to end his studies abruptly when his father passed away. The experience of closing his father’s small business and firing its staff directly shaped his left-wing political beliefs. He became an active member of the Communist Party, though he broke with the party after the 1956 invasion of Hungary by the Soviet Union. Marks returned to the University of Toronto to complete his Bachelor of Arts degree after serving in the Canadian Army Service Corps in the Second World War. He then relocated to Vancouver to work for the vanguard European film distributor, Artkino Films. In 1974, after Artkino went into insolvency, Marks was hired as the manager of the People’s Co-operative Bookstore. The People’s Co-operative Bookstore was established in 1945 to promote socialism via the circulation of intellectually significant, progressive texts. Marks’ encyclopedic knowledge of books and his discerning selection quickly made the People’s Co-operative Bookstore an important fixture on Vancouver’s cultural and political scene. He later was the manager at Duthie’s Paperback Cellar. An eccentric character, Marks was known for having food in his pockets and for his libertine ways.