Buildings

A VOLUME on the architecture of Washington, D.C., will be among the first books issued in a 70-book series on American buildings being developed by Oxford University Press and the Society of Architectural Historians. The series will cover the 50 states and 20 large cities.

A matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will assist in developing the early books of the series, which will appear in 1988 and 1989. In addition to Washington, the NEH-supported volumes will cover Iowa, North Carolina and Rhode Island. A volume on Michigan, under separate funding, will also be among the first books issued in the series.

The series is called The Buildings of the United States and is modeled on Nikolaus Pevsner's The Buildings of England. The books will try to identify all the buildings of lasting cultural value in a particular area. Each volume will have 2,000 geographically organized entries and 400 photographs, along with plans and interiors of the most important buildings and a general essay on the specific area covered. No word yet on who will do the Washington volume.

Editor-in-chief of the project will be Adolf K. Placzek, professor emeritus of architecture at Columbia University. Co-editor will be William H. Pierson Jr., a professor emeritus at Williams.

D.C. Writing

WASHINGTON AND Washington Writing will be the topic of a conference this week sponsored by the Center for Washington Area Studies at George Washington University. An impressive group of speakers will be on hand, beginning with Alfred Kazin who will deliver the keynote address at 8 p.m. Friday, April 18. His topic: "Washington and the American Writer: The Imagination of Power."

On Saturday, there will be panels in session all day, composed of nearly a score of writers, scholars and critics. Reed Whittemore, professor emeritus of English at the University of Maryland, will deliver the closing address at 4:30 p.m, April 19, speaking on "The Literary Mind in the World of the Journalist."

Topics covering the literary capital include: "Theatrical Washington"; "Washington and the Small Press"; "Recent Schools in Washington Poetry"; "Washington Novels and the Novelist"; "Modernist Afro-American Writing and Washington"; "Washington as a Scene of International Writing"; "Classic American Authors and Washington," and "The Library of Congress Consultancy and Washington Writing" led by former poetry consultants Josephine Jacobsen and Stanley Kunitz, moderated by Shakespeare scholar O.B. Hardison.

Conference registration will take place on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and all day Saturday starting at 8:30 a.m. at Building C (2201 G Street NW) of George Washington University. There is no charge (and how often can one say that?).

No Dark Thoughts

READING "Book Report's" recent item on the forthcoming paperback novel by Robert Shea about the Middle Ages, All Things Are Light, Suzanne Morgan of the Francis Scott Key Bookstore in Washington was struck by the fact that the word "light" appears in a lot of titles. She sent in a list of 22 current titles using the word: Available Light, Changing Light at Sandover, Children of Light, Children of the Light, Dancing in the Light, In Southern Light, In Summer Light, In the Clear Light, Light, Light a Penny Candle, Light in August, Light in the Attic, Light of the Home, Oxford Book of Light Verse, Poland Under Black Light, Shadows and Light, South Light, Traveling Light, What the Light Was Like, When Light Pierced the Darkness and World Was Flooded With Light. "The following is a list of light reading," she said in her note. "I hope you find it enlightening."

Lion's Teeth

SPRING HAS SPRUNG with a vengeance, and so have the dandelions in the front garden. In an effort to establish some rapport with this little bit of nature (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em), I consulted a wonderful book called A Guide to Enjoying Wildflowers by Donald and Lillian Stokes, part of the Stokes Nature Guides series published by Little, Brown. There, amidst short chapters on bindweed, buttercups, clover, lady's slipper, Queen Anne's lace and skunk cabbage was an entry on the dandelion.

The word itself derives from the French -- dents de lion, lion's teeth, referring to the jagged leaves of the plant. The plant is not native to North America, but like so many others that surround us, was an import from Europe. There are two main types -- Taraxacum officinale, the common dandelion with its brown seeds, and Taraxacum erythrospermum with its red seeds and smaller flowers.

One thing to notice about dandelions is that like most wildflowers they open and close during the day. Like many human beings, dandelions are slow to greet the world in the morning and often are not fully open until about 8 a.m. None of this work- till-5 nonsense for your dandelion either -- most start closing down about 1 p.m. On cloudy days, they open late or not at all. But if you pick a closed dandelion and put it in water and under a light, it will respond and open.

The flowerhead of the dandelion is in fact composed of many individual flowers. After they all have bloomed, the dandelion closes down for several days to allow its seeds to mature. At this point, if you pick a flower and cut open a few of its seeds you will find that some contain a small white insect larva with a little black head -- a weevil in the making. As the dandelion is maturing its seeds, its stalk gets longer, lifting the flowerhead higher in the air. So when the seed fluffball finally appears, it will have a better chance of catching the wind.

Now isn't that intersting? And you thought the dandelion was just another pest. Of course, you can put the dandelion to culinary use, too, by plucking its leaves (before flowers start to appear) for salad or sauteeing. The lighter-colored base of the leaves is the most tender part.

In the Margin

THE EAST COAST now has a store devoted exclusively to books from university presses, to match the successful university press store in Berkeley, California. The store, called University Press Books/New York, has been in operation since January at 65 Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village, on the premises of the New School for Social Research. It plans to stock 30,000 books from 75-plus American university presses. The store was set up by a grant from the J.M. Kaplan fund . . . Arbor House, though a New York publishing firm, has a distinct Washington tincture on its spring- summer list. Titles include Maureen Dean's novel Washington Wives, former congressman Robert Bauman's The Gentleman From Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative, Margaret Truman's Murder in Georgetown and Porn Row: An Inside Look at the Sex-for-Sale District of a Major City by urban anthropologist Jack M. Weatherford, who took a job as a sales clerk in a Washington porn store to gather material for his book.