If you love books and stores selling them, you should meet the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, a place I’m pretty sure Ernest Johnson introduced me to when we were in high school. That was back when we’d eat at the now defunct Cafe Florian and do other things I’ll leave unmentioned.
The Seminary Co-op held our futures in a curious way, pressing in me and in EJ a thirst for learning, a love for the mind, and an appeal to practice what we think we know. And it held our presents because that basement was another world entirely, a place where time fell to the side of a stone step or ran through an alcove or up to a chapel and waited like an answer to prayer.
Here is a quote from an exchange of two friends talking about a visit to the new Co-op. Newly owned by the University of Chicago, the old dark one is being gutted. All our current affections must train to this new light-filled room, which is very worth savoring.
With books, too, we seek out what we desire to find, and soon enough we reflect what we have sought. The contrast between old and new Seminary Co-Ops could not be more apt— the old store with its nooks, corners, pipes, and warren of aisles did indeed exhibit the “disordered glory” of the first collection you described, while the new store, well, if it was not carefully color-coded and alphabetized – all professionalism and spacious tidiness – then it was surely close to that.
Like you, I’m not exactly complaining about the new setting. It’s just different, and will take some getting used to. I suspect it will be a pleasant enough adjustment as older memories give way to more recent ones, spaced out across multiple visits. Then, when we think of “Seminary Co-Op,” this new, big-windowed building with its lighter woods and airy spaces will happily come to mind. And let’s be grateful that the Seminary Co-Op, during these turbulent times for booksellers, has managed to keep its doors, or different doors, open.
–From the exchange of letters between Wesley Hill and Brett Foster, where Brett responds to Wes’s letter about the new Seminary Co-op bookstore in Hyde Park. Read both full letters here.