Roberta goes to the library to pick up a few items and, finding herself surrounded by riches (in several formats), avails herself of them liberally, then runs out of steam…

November 18, 2012 at 7:18 pm (Anglophilia, architecture, books, Library, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Music, Photography, Spiritual)

One sunny Saturday morning, Roberta decided to visit the library. Her intent was to pick up two books she had reserved,  perhaps one or two additional mysteries, and a volume on art history.



Miller is Roberta’s local branch, a repository of more fabulous stuff than you can shake a stick at. (Please pardon the recourse to clichés – one is not up to much else, at present!) Roberta headed straight upstairs, where the new books for adults awaited her. I mean, why pass up a chance for some serendipity thereabouts? And lo: serendipity there was – in spades (those pesky clichés again). Her resistance held firm on the fiction side but broke down around the corner in nonfiction. Why here was Every Good Endeavor, a new work by Dr. Timothy Keller, Senior Pastor at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, whose wisdom, compassion, and eloquence had so impressed her in The Reason for God.    

Okay – I am now officially switching to the first person. Writing about yourself in the third person is just too weird! (Who is that woman, anyway?)

I am also currently reading The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.    For 21 years, Rabbi Sacks has been Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. In this book, he attempts to reconcile the claims of faith and science; indeed, he believes that the perception of a schism between the two is erroneous in the first place. Rabbi Sacks writes with wit and elegance. Me, I am happy to receive good counsel from wise men and women, whatever their affiliation!

Moving from the 200s (religion and spirituality) to the 500s (science), I found several items of interest. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of writers who are able to explain exciting new developments in physics and astronomy in ways that are accessible to what one might term the lay reader. For example:




Here I must confess to a tendency to take such books home with the best intentions, only to return them to the library unread. I did, however, finish – and greatly enjoy – those last two titles. (Before the Fallout is as much a history book as a science book and made for really riveting reading. Preston begins by describing what happened to one woman when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.  I reads Before the Fallout when it came out in 2005 and that scene has remained vivid in mind, in Preston’s measured retelling, a true horror story. “Silver treasure” indeed….) Mirror Earth currently resides on my night table – or one of my several night tables. Wish me luck.

I was just thinking that I’d better tear myself away from the new books when my eye lighted upon this: 

It’s the kind of book I love: you can just dip into it from time to time and get your fill of wonder. Isabel Kuhl begins her survey with the great pyramids of Egypt – that chapter is subtitled “The First Houses Built for Eternity” –  and ends with some spectacular structures by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Liebeskind, and others:

Daniel Liebeskind: Jewish Museum of Berlin, exterior 1989-1998

Frank Gehry: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain  1997

And in between these two astonishing extremes of time and place, one jaw dropper after another:

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, 360 AD

Durham Cathedral, Durham, England 1093-1133

Cathedral of Laon, Picardy, France 1160-1230

Ceiling fresco of the Church of Sant’Ignazio, Rome 1650

Chateau de Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France 1519-1547

[Click here for panoramic views of Chambord.]

Zwinger Palace, Dresden Germany 11697-1716

Chrysler Building, New York City 1928-1930

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1971-1977

Burj Khalifa Dubai 2010


Whew! I’m just about done in. And I so wanted to explain about the mysteries and the DVD’s – almost exclusively British mysteries….Ah well, it will have to wait. But I do want to mention a CD that I picked up:  This was true serendipity, aided by prominent placement on a display of audiovisual materials on Miller’s richly endowed first floor.

Among the musical selection on this disc is one I especially love, Handel’s coronation anthem “Zadok the Priest.”  I plugged the title into the YouTube search box and got some marvelous results. Here are two of my favorites.

First, the 2004 wedding of Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Mary Elizabeth Donaldson of Australia (by way of Scotland, as can be seen by her father’s attire);

I was thrilled by this one. It’s an Anglophile’s dream – this Anglophile’s, at any rate:


I owe a debt of gratitude to the good people of the Miller Branch, a place that, in my retirement years, has become a home away from home!

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I hereby beg your indulgence…

March 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm (architecture, books, Family, Magazines and newspapers)

…as I emerge from a weekend of intense immersion in Baby Love:

Efforts to feed Etta mashed bananas met with only moderate success (see above). Fun was had by all parties anyway.  Rolling over practice went better, with parents and grandmother cheering her on from the sidelines. (Video to follow, at some point.)

Okay. I’m done. Except for missing her powerfully, from the moment I left for the airport on Sunday.


As a result of this delightful interlude, I have fallen behind where adding content to this blog is concerned. No, I didn’t stop reading – I never stop reading – but the experience took on a fragmentary nature.  I need to get back on track, if only to keep myself grounded until I see my granddaughter again.

I have a confession to make: until Etta was born, I was often times impatient with people whose brains seemed to get mushy as soon as they became grandparents. But when I first took Etta Lin in my arms, I was astonished at the sudden uprush of feeling. I know now, as I should have known at the outset, that as long as you live, life will keep teaching you things. The lesson this time? It is difficult, if not impossible, to know in advance how you will feel about an event you’re experiencing for the first time.

Oddly enough, I find myself reflecting on Ebenezer Scrooge in The Christmas Carol. This powerful fable shows us that grace and enlightenment can come at any time in life. In Scrooge’s case, it arrived just barely in time. He became a sentimental lover of life in general, and of Tiny Tim in particular, and he didn’t care who knew it:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.


This is the edition that I own and recommend. Published by W.W. Norton & Co.


Blog posts on the following are in the works:

In the meantime, I’d like to recommend several articles:

From The  New Yorker of February 14: Middlemarch and Me: What George Eliot Teaches Us, by Rebecca Mead. I so enjoyed reading about George Eliot’s life and work in Phyllis Rose’s Parallel Lives. At the time, I was reminded of the riches I’ve encountered in her novels: Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Daniel Deronda – and of course, Middlemarch. Now Mead’s marvelous piece has evoked in me a desire to revisit Eliot’s masterpiece.

From the March issue of The Atlantic, a magazine whose coverage of books and the arts remains superb, I learned of the publication of this landmark work on the architecture of Dankmar Adler (1844-1900) and Louis Sullivan (1856-1924).  

I’ve become interested in the buildings of Chicago since my son Ben took up residence there in 1997. I have another reason to be interested in Louis Sullivan. He was a principal designer of the Harold C. Bradley House in Madison, Wisconsin. Built in 1909, ownership of this domicile passed to the Sigma Phi Society in 1915. While attending the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Ben was a member of that fraternity and enjoyed the privilege of living in that gracious abode, along with his fraternity brothers, for nearly all of his time there as an undergraduate. Devastated by a  fire in 1972, the building was completely restored and 1976 became the first National Historical Landmark in Madison (a delightful city which I miss visiting).

The Bradley House in 1975

Benjamin Schwarz, author of this review, has this to say about Louis Sullivan:

Along with his protege and one-time chief draftsman, Frank Lloyd Wright, he is universally hailed as the greatest architect to emerge from Chicago, the city that has produced America’s greatest architecture.

Also in this issue is a brief but eloquent piece by Schwarz on The Hare with Amber Eyes, a book that continues to haunt me.

Finally, in “Those Things with Feathers,” writer Mark Bowden chronicles his experience trying to raise guinea fowl in accordance with advice gleaned online. How does it turn out? Here’s the article’s subtitle: “The author’s guinea fowl defy the internet and stage a comeback.” Read it. Really! And  be sure to watch the accompanying video.

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