The end of a chapter for one Hyde Park bookstore.
It’s a Hyde Park institution. Saul Bellow, X’39, is said to have once called it the best bookstore in America. After more than 100 years of serving the University and Hyde Park, O’Gara and Wilson is closing its doors to begin a new chapter in Chesterton, Indiana. There are many bookstores in Hyde Park, but to me O’Gara and Wilson felt different. Maybe it was the subtitle “antiquarian booksellers” on the sign outside the shop, or the scarf-wearing stuffed goose just inside the door. Sure, the Seminary Co-op had its subterranean labyrinth, Powell’s its impressive collection of used books, and 57th Street Books its selection of popular literature. But O’Gara and Wilson, similar to some of the older buildings on campus, felt like a place steeped in history. The interior was all warm, worn wooden shelves lined with an eminently curated selection of books. This wasn’t a place you would come to buy a textbook; this was a place you would come to find a book with a story beyond what was written in the pages. A few years ago I picked up an old, tattered copy of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. I found the book in a cart of clearance items, a collection of ragged books seemingly unfit to share the same shelves with the rest of the offerings in the store. Ray Bradbury had been a favorite of author of mine for some time, so when I discovered this copy of his work I was immediately drawn to it. The dog-eared book suggested previous lives with other owners, and the prospect of adding to that history was too tempting to resist (as was the very cheap price). That’s what I loved about O’Gara and Wilson: many times I would just go in and browse the shelves, never intent on purchasing anything but instead to just pick up a book occasionally and thumb through the pages, taking in both the text and the materiality of the book. It was so easy to spend hours lost in the silent space of the bookstore, shelves towering high above, muffling all sound from the street outside.