1998 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Finished on April 29, 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)
Anne Fadiman is--by her own admission--the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of Fanny Hill, whose husband buys her 19 pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over her roommate's 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in the apartment that she had not read at least twice.
This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many passionate readers, the books she loves have become chapters in her own life story. Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family. As someone who played at blocks with her father's 22-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who only really considered herself married when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proof-reading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading out loud. There is even a foray into pure literary gluttony--Charles Lamb liked buttered muffin crumbs between the leaves, and Fadiman knows of more than one reader who literally consumes page corners. Perfectly balanced between humor and erudition, Ex Libris establishes Fadiman as one of our finest contemporary essayists.
My Original Thoughts (2000):
Fadiman speaks joyfully of books, book collecting, and book ownership. 18 charming essays - my favorites are Marrying Libraries, Never Do That to a Book, Inse^t a Car
rot, Eternal Ink, The Catalogical Imperative, and My Odd Shelf.
My Current Thoughts:
I was surprised to discover a copy of this book in my bookcase. I thought it wound up in the discard pile when I was culling my books before our move four years ago, but I must have decided it was worth keeping in spite of not loving it. I find that when I read a collection of short stories, poetry or essays, there may be a handful that I enjoy, but not usually the majority of the offerings. I love books about books, so I'll give Ex Libris another read and see how I feel about it now some time has passed since my first reading.