- Fizzy Thoughts: Ex Libris

Ex Libris

Monday, January 19, 2009


Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
Anne Fadiman
November 2000
176 pages

First of all, there is nothing common about Anne Fadiman’s reading habits or bookish knowledge. Good grief. Her vocabulary is light years beyond mine, and the description of her home library led to a bad case of book envy.

However, if I move past the title, this is an enjoyable collection of essays. Fadiman is the author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which I just realized is the same book I hear about frequently at Child Welfare Services trainings, because it deals with cultural issues and different perceptions about the provision of adequate medical care. However, that has nothing to do with the book I read, other than the fact that they share an author.

Fadiman grew up in an incredibly literary household. Her father was a well-known literary critic, her mother a World War II correspondent and author. Many of the essays talk about how her parents fostered a love of reading and learning. Fadiman reflects on the family playing along to the College Bowl game show, building castles with her father’s books, and growing up surrounded by books.

Other essays discuss obscure words, reading out loud, reading obsessions (hers is Arctic exploration), You-Are-There Reading and fountain pens. Fadiman writes about merging libraries, and the year her husband gave her a trip to a used bookstore as a birthday gift. They came home with 19 pounds of books. As with most essay collections, some selections are better than others. Fadiman occasionally gets a little too literary and obnoxiously over-educated. But overall, this is an enjoyable and entertaining collection.

And quite unexpectedly, I discovered the origin of the name of Chris’s blog. Did you know that the line "stuff as dreams are made on" is from The Tempest? Yeah, well, I didn’t.

13 comment(s):

Nymeth said...

I did, but I first saw that line in The Sandman :P It was only last year that I read The Tempest for the first time.

I love books about books, and this sounds like one I'd really enjoy.

Teresa said...

I just got this from the library and hope to read it this week. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

bermudaonion said...

Sounds like a delightful book.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

This sounds like something I'd love, albeit with a dictionary on my lap. :)

Bookfool said...

Ooooh, sounds fun! Yes, I knew the origin of Chris's blog name, but I think it's because he mentioned it, at some point. Is Persepolis depressing? Everyone keeps telling me I should give it a try but it scares me.

Chris said...

Well I'm glad to hear that you now know the origin of my blog name :) It's my favorite line of Shakespeare's. I have to get this book. I've been wanting it for so long...off to add it to Amazon cart...it will be your fault!

lisamm said...

Not only did I not know the origin of "stuff.." but at first I also (wrongly) thought this post was about Bethany at B&B ex libris.

Just call me a dork.

lilly said...

Sounds like a good read. I like reading books about reading books. Is that a sign of ultimate nerdiness or what?

Ladytink_534 said...

Huh. Well learn something new everyday is my motto lol!

Kim said...

I just received this book from amazon last week and look forward to reading it. I am a bit nervous about her high brow literary background which I have read about in several reviews but I think I will just have to plow through those parts!
*smiles*
Kim

J.S. Peyton said...

I just finished reading "The Book Addict's Treasury" which has a lot of great bookish quotes taken from this book. Sigh. Something else I really, really need to read.

Joanne said...

This book sounds fantastic! Another one for my wishlist (lol)

I had known where Chris's title came from, but only because I know someone who loves the phrase and has a tattoo of it.

Rebecca Reid said...

I enjoyed this years ago. I like recalling others history of books and reading.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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