Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Architecture and Oreos

My appreciation for this article has less to do with the fact that I absolutely hate the emergence and growing popularity of e-books, Kindles, and Sony Readers - I just think there's something to be said for holding a book in your hands, feeling the pages, seeing notes you've or someone else has written - and more so with the fact that "shelves" as a snapshot of the person we've been, the person we are, or the person we hope to be is just really compelling...and kind of beautiful.

"Shelf Life" from Louisville Magazine (March 2010)
Bob Hill

"One thing we did after moving into our well-worn farmhouse was to build a library in its wide, front-door hallway, lining one wall with shelves of books, another with family pictures, plaques and the nostalgic debris of lives fully lived. The books had followed us around for years, growing in scope and volume with each stop. (In truth, they sat in the hall in cardboard boxes for years until we accumulated enough inertia and money to hire a carpenter.)

Once finished, the hallway became a room unto itself - more than a passageway to our bedrooms or a front door never used. It had purpose and place. It defined who we were, what we read, which family images we wanted to display - and wanted others to see. All those things had become part of the architecture, the ambiance, the life of our house.

So what will our lives - our houses - be like when all that information is only stored on a digital picture frame or a Kindle?

I'll spare you the perhaps expected rant of another old guy denying the byte-sized future; there are obvious time-related and financial benefits to downloading words and images. I just see nothing warm, cozy, or comforting in having all my family photos and all the books I've ever read compressed into flat black computer gizmos the thickness of a pizza.
Think of all the homes you have visited in which the most comfortable room or place to be found was lined with books. Indeed, the most impressive private room I have ever seen in my life is the library at Oxmoor Farm in Louisville. It is a vast cathedral of books - wide, expansive, breathtaking - a surround of hundreds of leather-bound volumes rising to the sentence.

My library is a bit more modest - and subject to periodic purges. After each, surveying its shelves is like looking into a mirror; my life and all its still-relevant interests are looking back at me, even surprising me. On the far right are all my garden books, two and three deep with books laid sideways on top, their titles ranging from Elegant Silvers to Annuals for Connoisseurs to the more prosaic Viburnums.

Poetry books arch across my library garden - Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, T.S. Eliot, Robert Browning, Edgar Lee Masters, W.H. Auden, Wilfred Owen, and nearby, of course, Dr. Seuss. Not too far from the author of Cat in the Hat are two battered volumes of the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, published in 1885 and bought off a hay wagon at a farm auction 100 years later. I've had them appraised; they're worth about $10 Confederate.

There is no one bookcase theme - a journalist's curse. Roger Kahn's nostalgic classic The Boys of Summer is just a few volumes down from Stephen Crane's blood-soaked The Red Badge of Courage. Naturalist Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is carefully observing Henry David Thoreau's On Walden Pond. Above them looms the 483-page tome The Works of Plato - a book I must have kept around for appearance's sake or as a doorstop.
I just cannot imagine - I don't want to imagine all those books, all those great voices, tucked into a single black box lying on a bare shelf. Each is a physical reminder of where my mind has been, where it is going. Some days you want to judge a book by its cover."

Some of the places my mind has traveled...

I haven't done a recipe in a while so I figured my comeback entry should be healthy and incredibly complex.

Start with your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough recipe (I used a packaged mix; added a stick of butter and one egg). Put a teaspoonful on a greased cookie sheet. Stick an orea in the center and push it down so the dough encases it a bit. Put another teaspoonful of dough on top of the orea and try to "connect the dough." Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 mintues.
I love that there are bananas in the background.


  1. Those really have to be so good. Kathy Mosby makes those kind and puts a mini snickers in the center. I tried it once and they are good also. I think I would like the crunch of the oreo.

  2. I, too, am concerned with the dying art of writing a personal note or actually holding a book and enjoying its content. I get so much pleasure from watching Isabella's facial expressions when being read to from a colorful fun book. In fact she is now pretending to read a book all by herself. Books will always be a part of her life because Nonna, Aunt LiLi, A, and her mom will see to it.

    Now for the banana in the background...I would be willing to bet that rather than eating one of those tempting cookies, I bet you had the banana.

  3. Carolyn, the orea gives a little texture, but it softens up quite a bit. Don't get me wrong, I think you'd still like it! I think I'll try the snickers next time.

    Mom, I didn't even know Isabella could sit still long enough to hear a book read:) Unrelated: I'm so glad I grew up in a house filled with "nostalgic debris of lives fully lived."
    Oh, and I broke down and had one. Much, much better than a banana.