Anne Fadiman is the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of "Fanny Hill", and who once found herself poring over a 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only thing in her apartment that she had not read at least twice. "Ex Libris" wittily recounts a lifelong obsession with books. Writing with humour and erudition she ...
Anne Fadiman is the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of "Fanny Hill", and who once found herself poring over a 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only thing in her apartment that she had not read at least twice. "Ex Libris" wittily recounts a lifelong obsession with books. Writing with humour and erudition she moves easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family. 'One of the most delightful volumes to have come across my desk in a long while...witty, enchanting and supremely well-written' - Robert McCrum, "Observer".
Though the 'familiar essay' as practised by Lamb and Hazlitt is possibly in its death-throes, Anne Fadiman sees it as her mission to rescue the genre from total extinction - and she does so with warmth, wit and style. I cannot recommend this - and her other books of short essays - too highly.
Dec 20, 2008
A delightful volume - for the unashamed book lover !! And makes a charming gift for a friend. This is the sort of book that every book lover, who feels that they could never write like a "real author", realises that this is the book that they would have written - if only they could !!
Publishers Weekly, 1998-08-24 The author of last year's NBCC-winning The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, has collected 18 essays about her relationships with books, reading, writing and words. Gathered from the "Common Reader" column Fadiman wrote for Civilization magazine, these essays are all inspired by interesting ideasæhow spouses merge their large libraries, the peculiar pleasures of reading mail-order catalogues, the joys of reading aloud, how people inscribe their books and why. Unfortunately, some of these fascinating ideas grow fussy. The minutiae of the shelving arrangements at the Fadiman household brings the reader to agree with the author's husband, who "seriously contemplated divorce" when she begged him to keep Shakespeare's plays in chronological order. The aggressive verbal games waged in Fadiman's (as in Clifton) family are similarly trying: They watched G.E. College Bowl, almost always beating the TV contestants; they compete to see who can find the most typos on restaurant menus; and adore obscure words such as "goetic" (pertaining to witchcraft). At least the author is self-aware: "I know what you may be thinking. What an obnoxious family! What a bunch of captious, carping, pettifogging little busybodies!" Well, yes, but Fadiman's writing, particularly in her briefer essays, is lively and sparkling with earthy little surprises: William Kunstler enjoyed writing (bad) sonnets, John Hersey plagiarized from Fadiman's mother. Books are madeleines for Fadiman, and like those pastries, these essays are best when just nibbled one or two at a time. (Oct.)
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