Thursday, September 18, 2014


A friend sent me a piece in the Chicago Tribune by none other than Cass Sunstein, reminiscing about the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park.  It is a pretty special place, though Sunstein, now at Harvard, hasn't been at the University of Chicago for a while so I wonder when he was last there.

I'm not sure what occasioned the piece, but it's clear the essay is deeply felt.  (Though sometimes in his mistiness the prose goes a bit astray: "Spend 30 minutes at the Front Table, and your mind would both focus and wander.  You could not be distracted.  You were on an island, or in some kind of warm sea.")  I wouldn't be surprised if he's found a new favorite in Cambridge, but your first bookstore will always be special.

Hyde Park is not the most lovely place, but I do remember certain spots with fondness, and that includes some great bookstores.  Of all the changes in retail that have occurred during my life, the one that fills me with the most nostalgia is the death of the bookstore.  I wonder if anyone's started a pool on when the last one will close.

PS  Don't ask my why, but the piece reminded me of a personal story about Cass--maybe because in it he's surrounded by books.  When I was in law school, the finals were three hours, but sometimes they'd give you take-home tests where you'd leave the class and have eight hours to work on it. I didn't like this--three hours was enough to get out any ideas you had, and the extra time simply existed to make you feel guilty for not coming up with more insights.

I had a take-home on some soft subject, so I went to my room, read the question, and immediately turned on my tiny black and white TV to watch Green Acres. (I think I was able to work the episode into my answer--Green Acres did feature a lawyer, after all.)

After that, only about seven hours left, might as well start working on it.  So I went to the law library, where it was fairly quiet and, if necessary, I could look up something.  After about two hours, I felt I had pretty much said what I had to say.  Oh, I'd polish it a little, but for all intents and purposes, I was done.  And just then who should walk by but Cass.

We were sort of friends, so he stopped and we started chatting. I don't remember what about.  Maybe about Green Acres--he liked TV as much as I did.  And we're talking maybe five or ten minutes and then he gets this look on his face.  He's just realized I'm in the middle of a test.

He's horrified at the intrusion. He apologizes and rushes off.  For all I knew, he left for the solitude of the Seminary Co-op.  Of course, I would have been glad to keep on talking. Who knows, maybe something I could have worked in something he said about Green Acres.


Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Probably petrified it was some sort of ethical issue. He's not so callow today, I suppose, after a stint in the greatest presidency of all time.

I do think he should continue his writing, though. "Warm Seas," by Cass Sunstein.

2:35 AM, September 18, 2014  
Blogger New England Guy said...

Unfortunately most of the bookstores in Cambridge have disappeared too- there are still some but much fewer and further between (The Coop is a Barnes & Noble, like most college bookstores these days).

I spent time at O'Hara's, Powells and 57th Street Books but am not remembering the Seminary Co-op

4:05 AM, September 18, 2014  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

My son is at the U. of Colorado now, and I find it amusing that the school bookstore sends emails around reminding people that although their prices are higher and service is slower, we should eschew and show school spirit by buying (or renting) our kids' books from them to show school spirit.

8:17 AM, September 18, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was Cass the professor whose exam you were writing?

7:18 PM, September 18, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

No, then I could have understood his attitude. It was a class from Professor A.W.B. (Average White Band) Simpson.

7:50 PM, September 18, 2014  
Blogger New England Guy said...

The Professor Simpson who taught constitutional law in one of the Commonwealth countries and told his classes that in the event of a coup occurring during the final exam to please assume the old constitution remained in force for purpose of answering the questions- that one?

(I have no doubt butchered that story through failing memory- please feel free to correct my errors)

3:09 PM, September 19, 2014  

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