Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Seminary Co-Op

I have a very hard time explaining to local colleagues why Chicago’s Seminary Co-Op bookstore is such a wonderful place. The reputation of the bookstore does extend to Melbourne – when academic staff hear that I used to work in Chicago, they often ask whether I know the store. If they haven’t been there themselves, though, this question is usually followed by something like: “I don’t get it – what’s the big deal with this place? Why not just order from Amazon?” I haven’t heard this question from anyone who’s actually visited the store.

When I heard that L. Magee would be visiting Chicago and was asked about local tourist options, I immediately insisted that the Co-Op must be on the list. Last night, I received the only tourist photo sent back from the trip: L. Magee in the Co-Op, bearing heavy tomes, surrounded by bookshelves reaching up to the ceiling, filled with academic texts. I’m terribly envious…

2 responses to “Seminary Co-Op

  1. Sinthome November 17, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    N.P. you’re kicking me in the gut here! I did my graduate work at Loyola of Chicago, and delighted in spending hours in the dusty and maze like basement of the Co-Op. I would tremble with delight as I approached the newly published book table, perusing all those delicious academic and literary titles laid out on the table and along the walls. Often I’d be unable to restrain myself, however, and would only be able to look for a few minutes, before dashing to the back where they house their enormous philosophy section. I would work my way about the winding walls, looking at all the titles, finding rare or hard to find book, and then slip into the science studies section. From there I’d head back up to the front and hang a right, exploring the psychology and linguistic sections, working my way back to the critical theory and social and political theory section. Only then would I allow myself to thoroughly explore the new publications tables, as if everything else had been foreplay leading up to that. Now I’m outside of Dallas in Texas, and the Coop is a sadly fading memory. Perhaps if my job hunt goes well this fall I’ll be in Chicago again. Ouch! It hurts to think about that place.

  2. N Pepperell November 17, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    You may be on the other side of the country – I’m on the other side of the world… 😦 And I’ve been away for so long I can no longer remember all the twists and turns of the interior layout – although the pic LM emailed brought back such intense memories of time spent in this place… It’s a very tactile thing – surrounded by all of these amazing works in narrow and subterranean confines… And the staff who seem to know everything you want to be reading – and everything you forgot to put on your course reading list… And going there at the beginning of the term, when the place was jammed with people, slipping through the crowd to buy books intended for students of other courses…

    LM knows how to provoke real vacation envy – skipping the photos of sunny California beaches, but sending through the shot of a Chicago basement cluttered with books…

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