Eat Your Books

On November 11, the Charleston Bookworkers Union had its first “eatable books” event. The event was an appetizer; the main course was a fascinating presentation on American and British traditions of wood engraving used in book illustrations. Any of the wonderful wordless graphic novels of Lynd Ward is a good example.


But my focus here is food. This being a foodie city, the emphasis will always be on EATABLE (not just playing with food). This is a little inhibiting for those of us who think of food as art material but are not really great cooks. After listening to my plan (ice cream that melts and is blended into a smoothie to share), my husband said “You’ll never get people to eat that!” It probably didn’t help that my inspiration was an Edgar Allan Poe story, in which a hypnotist with a dying patient tries to cheat Death. Think:

 Banana Split a la Edgar, or

The Mesmerist’s Delight, or

The Incredible Edible Melting Story, or

(if you want the original inspiration)

“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” by Edgar Allan Poe (published 1845)

 Edible books can be anything edible that pertains to the SHAPE or CONTENT of a book (according to International Books 2 Eat)

On the left (below) you can see the remains of an edible book shelf.  I opted to take a picture and bring apple crisp.


My 2014 edible book, a body made of fruit and ice cream (bubblegum flavor), duplicates the course of events in Poe’s text, by melting into a puddle. Edible, but unfortunately not appetizing.

  1. His extremities were of an icy coldness.


  1. We continued to make daily calls.


  1. We resolved to make the experiment to awaken him.


  1. His frame crumbled away beneath my hands…. There lay a nearly liquefied mass!


Next year, I might aim for appetizing, but perhaps not.

Charleston’s bookmakers also make real books, beautiful ones: a selection of those shown at the meeting, below:



About Lillian-Trettin

I grew up in the Appalachian "Bible Belt" of East Tennessee in the southern United States, listening to banjo music and gospel lyrics as well as the Beatles. As a kid, I was curious about religious rituals like speaking in tongues and snake handling but resistant to the fundamentalist thinking they involved. Flannery O'Connor's tales of religious fanatics, con men, bigots, and the spiritually bereft or ambivalent resonate for me. Despite having traveled widely and lived in other places, I am (as so many Southerners claim to be) permanently "South haunted." I returned to making art full time in 2011, following a career as a teacher, researcher, and consultant and after raising two sons. I’m convinced the delay enriched rather than impeded my growth as an artist.
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