Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book sales and bookstores

Book Sale

Every year on Columbus Day weekend, there is a huge book sale in my neighborhood.  It's held outside, in the courtyard of a small local shopping center, so the weather, which can be problematic in Chicago in mid-October, is always a concern.  This year, it was absolutely stunningly gorgeous, as though summer had made a brief reappearance to remind us of what we are going to miss in the coming months.  It was sunny and the temperature reached the mid-'80s!  Perfect for browsing books outside.

The sale lasts three days, and the final day is "$4 bag, $5 box" day.  I skipped the first day, but wandered by on Sunday (well, I did have other errands in stores in the shopping center!), and bought just a few books, including a couple to take to Casa Italiana for their library.  Then I went back yesterday with a large tote bag, and stuffed it with another couple of dozen.  The books ranged from nature writing (This Incomperable Lande) and history (Agony at Easter: The 1916 Irish Uprising) to short stories collections, biography, law and illuminated manuscripts.

A good time was had by all, and money raised for the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, a worthy organization.


This is the "claustrophobic basement" that some people claim constitutes "part of the charm" of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.  Now, I like quirkiness as much as the next person, and it is rather fun to wander in and out of the narrow passageways and hidden rooms of this store that is housed in the basement of what is now the Chicago Theological Seminary (hence, the store's name).

However, it's also down a steepish flight of stairs, which means it's not easily accessible to the handicapped, and those narrow passageways can be a bit of pain at times.  Now that the CTS is being converted to the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, the bookstore is moving.   It's going to first floor and basement space, that will be designed by well-known Chicago architects Stanley Tigerman and Margaret McCurry, in a University-owned building one block away from its current location, and next door to Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House (below).

The architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune did an article about the move, and one commenter (the same one whose remarks about the "charm" of the place I quote above) suggested that a one-block move "will make it much more difficult to draw customers". Well, if people are too lazy to walk one more block to what has been called one of the best academic bookstores in the world, then they are too lazy to be University of Chicago students.  Bookstore manager Jack Cella sent a letter to members (of which I am one, as are architect Tigerman and the President of the United States) in which he states:  The new store will have windows (imagine that!), will be completely accessible, and will have operational temperature and air circulation controls.   How is this bad?  Cella also says "We may bring a pipe along for the occasional customer who feels nostalgic for a place to bump his or her head."  I hope that satisfies the commenter.

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