Friday, August 27, 2010

Straightforward Utility

Photo courtesy Flickr

Like the cat that prefers to look at a finger rather than the target being indicated, I often extract more information from the backdrop of an interview than from the dialogue.

Recently, Charlie Rose interviewed English journalist Christopher Hitchens, whose comments were rigorous and inspiring. Hitchens’ library, I assume it was his library, was equally inspiring. The room had plain walls, and behind his chair stood a sofa with a low Saarinen tulip table set with a chess board, to the right was a large contemporary portrait, and behind that was a wall of book shelves. At the rear stood a ladder, a traditional accessory for floor-to-ceiling shelving.

This ladder mocked the pretense of McMansion aspirations: it was a clean wooden stepladder whose bucket shelf made it more useful than the traditional mahogany structure on rails. I’ve always loved the look of a wooden ladder: it took this interview to make me realize I could have spent years enjoying the view if I hadn’t been chicken.

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