May 3, 2013

Sem Co-Op hosts reading for homegrown publication

The University of Chicago is a magnet for start-up bookstores, newspapers, and magazines. Arguably, the greatest success story has been that of the Seminary Co-Op, which was born out of the basement of the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1961 with an initial investment of $170. Today, the Co-Op frequently promotes fledgling publications originating in Hyde Park and its surrounding neighborhoods. Most recently, the Co-Op has lent a hand to The Point, a journal founded several years ago by three grad students that publishes essays on contemporary life and culture. At the Co-Op stores, copies of the magazine are placed front and center at checkout stations and on magazine racks. On Wednesday, the Co-Op held the first Point reading at its flagship location on Woodlawn Avenue.

“Jack Cella [the manager of the Seminary Co-Op] has been enormously kind to us from the start,” said Jonny Thakkar, co-editor of The Point and a doctoral candidate in the Committee on Social Thought. “In general, he seems to treat us with a kind of avuncular pride, having witnessed the rise of previous U of C–based magazines like The Baffler in his time.”

At the recent reading, three essayists—Thakkar, Emilie Shumway (A.B. '10), and Ben Jeffery—shared their pieces from the sixth and latest issue of The Point to a small audience of students, faculty, and other Point enthusiasts. The subject matter ranged from current left-wing politics to popular music to a personal story about finding a job in the 2008 recession. A common theme among the three essays seemed to be the ways in which the turn of the millennium has seen political, cultural, and economic stagnation.

Thakkar’s piece, “Socialism We Can Believe In (Part I),” criticized the platforms of the Left for being too moderate. “Occupy and Obama seem to represent the exhaustion of the Western Left in general,” he says in his essay, in which he argues for the need to revise liberalism in the West by revisiting socialism. In her essay entitled “My Job Search,” Shumway discusses receiving hundreds of job rejection letters and working for minimum wage after graduating from the University. “I feel like I’ve been broken up with by life,” she says in the piece. Finally, Jeffery, another member of the Committee on Social Thought, spoke in his essay, “Out with the New,” about how popular music has recently been “barren in terms of distinct, innovative content.”

The Point editors hope to continue this partnership with the Co-Op and to hold more readings in the future. “In a way, this was a kind of dry run; we had never done a bookstore reading before, and we were experimenting with the length and number of readings versus question-and-answer time,” Thakkar said. Many students at the University read The Point—a few are even members of the staff—yet only a handful showed up for the reading on Wednesday. “Next time, we can put a bit more effort into promoting the event. We are thinking that it might make sense to make it a bit more of a social event, folding it into a drinks reception so that it’s less formal, and readers can meet other readers, as well as writers and editors.”