Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ex Libris

Confessions of a Common Reader
by Anne Fadiman

My friend and fellow book lover, Erin lent me this book.

Ex Libris is completely charming. First of all, it's one of those books that feels comfortable to hold; comfortable as in familiar and inviting. It's the perfect size and feels like it's made of real paper, not all glossy and shinny. And the essays themselves are lovely, in the most loving way.

I will say that reading these essays requires a dictionary, and not just for "The Joy of Sesquipedalians," (a word which this spell-check does not recognize but I assure you is a real word). I wish I had Anne Fadiman's vocabulary. But I didn't not grow up in the kind of household where my father quizzed my brother and I on word meanings.

Fadiman shares wonderful anecdotes about the books in her life and how they relate to her life, including the difficulty of marring her and her husband's libraries: "[...] it was a good thing the Book of Common Prayer didn't say anything about marrying our libraries and throwing out the duplicates. That would have been a far more solemn vow, one that would probably have caused the wedding to grind to a mortifying halt." Adorable. And is there some unspoken rule that book lovers/writers must be fascinated by Antarctic expeditions of the 19th century? She and Annie Dillard: two peas in a pod.

My favorite essays are "Marrying Libraries," "My Odd Shelf," "Never Do That to a Book," "True Womanhood," and "Sharing the Mayhem." "Nothing New Under the Sun" makes me crazy because I really dislike footnotes. Yet these are the kinds of essays which can (and should) be read over and over again because, while they are personal, they are also personable and accessible and will hold individual meaning for each individual reader. They are extremely well crafted in a kind of ciclicle way, always returning to her original observation.

This is a book that I feel the need to buy a copy for myself. I want to mark it up, leave it open and face down on my night stand, and lend out to my friends (as long as they promise to give it back).

If you love books, then you are bound to love this one.

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