Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader 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 Pounds Of Dusty Books For Her Birthday, And Who Once Found Herself Poring Over Her Roommate S Toyota Corolla Manual Because It Was The Only Written Material In The Apartment That She Had Not Read At Least TwiceThis 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 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 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

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

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  • Paperback
  • 162 pages
  • Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
  • Anne Fadiman
  • English
  • 17 March 2017
  • 9780374527228

10 thoughts on “Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

  1. says:

    This tiny book is an absolute gem charming slyly humorous a literary delight These I8 essays are a tribute to books bookworms fellowbibliophiles Author Anne Fadiman s parents were readers and writers The book bug stayed in the family Anne and her husband, George are both book people and writers Their dog is named Typo The first story my favorite..is called Marrying Libraries.It s a story about Anne and George finally deciding to mix their books together They had lived together for six years, been married for five They mis matched coffee mugs, socks, record collections, years ago without any incident but their libraries remained separate It s such a wonderful story and actually deeper than the joyful humor it is.Ultimately libraries are about bringing people together..and for this couple bringing their libraries together was about profound intimacy In The Joy of Sesquipedalian s it s a story about obsession with words My Old Shelf very funny it s the library shelf that contains small mysterious corpus volumes whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which upon closer inspection, reveals a good deal about the owner Never do that to a Book is great fun..you ll see yourself What rules do you have about your books I loved these essays mostly about books, and a little about family and food.Anne Fadiman s prose speaks directly to the heart Many thanks to LisaVegan for this treasure of a gift

  2. says:

    Like many a Goodreader, no doubt, I have a thing for books about books In this particular case, there s a chapter in the book about books about books It might be tempting someday to write a book about such books about books about books, but let s not get silly, or meta silly for that matter Anyway, Fadiman s essays are as elegant and well written as my introduction is awkward and inane She s the kind of bookworm friend we d all like to the stratosphere here on this site.Fadiman is the daughter of renowned literary critic, Clifton Fadiman, and former author and WWII correspondent for Time Magazine, Annalee Jacoby Fadiman She had a very bibliocentric upbringing, as you might imagine As a kid she was allowed to build a playhouse out of her dad s 22 volume set of Trollope books You might say she was to the omnibus manor born She grew to love sesquipedalians a great self descriptive word meaning long words like everyone else in her family, and shared an obsession for editing grammatical flubs with her captious, carping, pettifogging relations Her essays cover a variety of topics that are bound to interest booklovers She begins with a personal story of how she and her husband, after five years of marriage and a child, were ready for the profound intimacy of library consolidation The challenge was how to decide between her French garden approach ordered and well tended and his English garden style abundant but haphazard In other essays we learn her thoughts on Classifications of book people into those who keep their volumes as pristine as possible out of respect courtly lovers and those who might dog ear pages and delight in marginalia carnal lovers The joys of reading out loud The art of the inscription with great examples among literary giants The pleasure of buying 19 pounds worth of used books as opposed to fungible new copies from big box stores How, to the reading obsessed, even a roommate s 1974 Toyota Corolla Owner s Manual will doThis is a small appetizer of a book, but one full of literary flavor While it s not what I d call LOL funny, it is amusing in a clever and scholarly way Fadiman writes very well, too never a word wrong, never a cacophonous beat I m tempted to buy a bookplate that says Ex Libris Steve to print inside its cover Oh wait, an ex libris of ex libris books is too much like the twaddle in my intro I can t be seen as a one shtick pony even though I am.

  3. says:

    Just a couple weeks ago, a great review of this book popped up on my update feed, Ah, the magic of Goodreads so when I spotted it at a booksale I went to last week for a dollar, I grabbed it quick If you haven t read Jon s review yet, check it out to a bout of insomnia last night, I finished this and loved it I feel like shoving this book onto some family and friends who think I m much too obsessed with all things book All of these essays show why bibliophiles love their book collection so passionately our books become a part of who we are There are funny parts all throughout the book, and the end of the last essay nearly brought tears to my eyes I ve always loved books, and admit that since joining Goodreads my obsession has increased a thousand fold My GR addiction has reached the point where if this site was suddenly not available, I don t know what I would do Not having a whole lot of friends in real life who are book lovers like myself, makes this website and books like this almost a necessity They give you the sense that it s okay to constantly be re organizing your bookshelf, kind of panicking inside when someone asks to borrow a book, or even spotting annoying grammar and spelling mistakes everywhere you go.This was a very entertaining read and a must have for the crazily obsessed bookworm Read it, Goodreaders.

  4. says:

    If you ll excuse what I know has to sound like a weak attempt at an obvious pun, I find that books are easier to read than people I summon far less effort to read a page than a face, a chapter than mixed body language Even the subtext and allusions and metaphors are all naught but new takes on old tricks, and the most elusive hidden messages are often buried no deeper than a careful reexamination of text laid bare with a willingness most people eschew in the name of self preservation and tactful modesty Besides, I m far far, far, faaaar apt to dislike a person than a book, so why not be better acquainted with the entity that s likely to strike me as pleasing Having encountered hundreds of agreeable books by now, I can tell when one is poised to bound across the threshold between casual acquaintance and trusted friend Because no two books, in a rare display of commonality with us moodier mortals, share the same personality, the one variable is when the deepening of our relationship will become apparent will we know by the time the last word hits us like a too soon au revoir or will we realize that our meeting was fated for roaring success before I ve even turned the first page Confessions of a Common Reader and I were destined for each other I knew this to be an undeniable truth simply from a mutual friend s appropriately glowing review that gave rise to the heartening pang reserved for the flash of recognition in spotting a kindred spirit from a distance that may be easily conquered but lengthened intolerably by the inconvenient fact that we d not been properly introduced yet thanks for playing matchmaker, Steve Like a friend insisting that I ought to meet this person they just know with whom I ll enjoy an easy rapport, I sought the aforementioned book s companionship immediately, knowing it would be one of those rare times reality and fantasy sung in pitch perfect harmony Anne Fadiman s collection of essays culled from a lifetime of bibliomania and I, in truth, needed no introduction once our eyes locked in a Barnes Noble We knew that we were about the enjoy the rare bliss of a fast friendship and flowing conversation buoyed by quiet but doggedly personality defining quirks.Forgoing the polite formalities of aimless small talk that I ve never had any use for, we quickly discovered our kinship by way of unabashed conversation girded with the intimate admissions that are usually divulged to the friends whose loyalty was built on years of shared experiences Ours was a love at first sight that is usually only relegated to the fictions we both treasure as though they are the pillars upon which our own personal histories rest and, really, they decidedly do We found instantaneous common ground by confiding early on that we both regarded it as a monumental moment, indeed with an eye cast far optimistically toward the future than a mere marriage proposal, infinitely demonstrative of a trust we d only felt for one person that we proclaimed it before a roomful of witnesses, embracing a humbling but welcome vulnerability light years beyond that first appearance of the two backed beast when we allowed the person we ve vowed to love and support until both of our bodies have expired to combine their personal libraries with our own lovingly tended but fiercely guarded treasure trove of tomes, that to allow such a commingling of the closest we ll ever come to an outward manifestation of our personalities truest forms with another s is the very definition of the hard won but popularly cliched and carelessly bandied about designation of soulmate As we freely offered each other the pieces of ourselves we usually sheltered beneath layers of protective trivia and adopted personae, sitting forehead to forehead as hours melted away like minutes during our sometimes tittering, sometimes somber but always generously peppered with earnest, animated outbursts of I know exactly what you mean I thought I was the only one conversation, we unearthed and gold nuggets of shared insights and experiences rampant logophilia an incorrigible but well intentioned need to proofread everything made of words the ongoing struggle against but secret thrill of one s living space looking less like a home and like a used bookstore which, really, is the only other place we re truly ourselves, anyway the pleasure of carnally loving a book to the extent that its spine is permanently bent and its marginalia is such an imprint of the self that the very idea of letting someone else borrow it requires tapping into some inner peace to get over the anxiety akin to letting someone rifle through your diary with dirty fingers and malicious intent the unavoidable comparison between a decadent meal and a five course book and the primitive, multi sensory satiation that accompany both.Alas, all good things must come to an end and, as we blinked with disbelief into the light of a new day, we realized that our electrifying and animated first meeting was rushing toward its inevitable denouement And I realized that the jealousies I d brushed aside in the eager pursuit of getting to know this marvelous new ally with whom I shared multitudinous proclivities and compulsions were now a spreading stain that unfairly marred our enchanted first encounter, which is a personal failing that should say terrible things about me and should not, at all, be held against this exuberant and eloquent little book but is why I docked a star off its rating I assume, with the heavy handed clarity of hindsight, that Confessions of a Common Reader is dressed in green to warn me how deeply I d envy anyone whose childhood was a warmly nurturing word nerd s dream and a booklover s haven I know we ll meet again and, that when we do, my pettiness will have long ago been overshadowed by fond memories of a soul baring heart to heart that is worth the dozens of instances of painfully insipid chatter I suffered through to find it.

  5. says:

    In the spirit of full disclosure, this book was selected for me as part of a Bossy Book Challenge A book of essays about reading is certainly something I would never have chosen for myself, but I did try to keep an open mind..I understand why people like this book The writer obviously truly loves books to the point of obsession, and anyone with a love of books will find something to relate to here Unfortunately, that thing is unlikely to be the writer herself The book s subtitle is, Confessions of a Common Reader , but the word common is apparently intended to mean wealthy and privileged , having a classical literature degree and being part of an elite literary circle This woman actually seems to believe that all teenagers go through a sonnet writing phase Fadiman describes herself in the book as, an unregenerate goody goody, a priggish little pedant who would no have permitted a rogue trochee to sneak among her perfect iambs than show up in Miss Farrar s class with a smudge on her monogrammed school uniform Now observe the teenage Ruby Tombstone and her circle of friends in 1986 Not a sonnet between us.This is a woman who reads old books, makes a list of the words she doesn t understand and then quizzes her family and friends on them For fun And keeps score Her mother keeps hundreds of newspaper clippings of grammatical errors, intending to mail them in to the paper one day Fadiman went through the clippings and catalogued them She made meticulous corrections on a paperback edition of Speak, Memory and sent them to Nabokov himself She grew up watching college quiz shows with her family, playing as a team against the teams on tv, using the chair arms as buzzers As an adult, she remembers their high scores, and which colleges her family beat She says in the book, I know what you may be thinking What an obnoxious family What a bunch of captious, carping, pettifogging little busybodies No That was not at all what I was thinking It s not what anybody in the world was thinking What I was thinking was, Fuck you, lady, and the iambic pentameter you rode in on.The final straw was this phrase the author uses when discussing her father s library, which apparently, spanned the globe and three millennia, although it was particularly strong in English poetry and fiction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries The only junk, relatively speaking, was science fiction.. Really, Ms Fadiman You re above science fiction too You ve spent an entire chapter boring me stupid with anecdotes about your reading of European mail order catalogues and now you re dismissing science fiction as junk I d like to reiterate my earlier point and say, Fuck You If you re wondering what there is to like about this book, it s this Anyone who loves books will see something in here to remind them of their own reading foibles The discussion on how people treat their paper books is one I often see on GoodReads ie Are you a courtly or a carnal reader and is bound to raise a smile of recognition There are lots of examples in this book of other people with book obsessions just like our own Just no examples of people just like us Prigs, pedants and pretentious elitists excluded, of course.

  6. says:

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  7. says:

    I loved this collection of bookish essays One of my favorite pieces was Marrying Libraries, which was when Anne and her husband, George, decided to combine their book collections We ran into trouble when I announced my plan to arrange English literature chronologically but American literature alphabetically by author My defense went like this Our English collection spanned six centuries, and to shelve it chronologically would allow us to watch the broad sweep of literature unfold before our very eyes The Victorians belonged together separating them would be like breaking up a family Besides, Susan Sontag arranged her books chronologically She had told The New York Times that it would set her teeth on edge to put Pynchon next to Plato So there Our American collection, on the other hand, was mostly twentieth century, much of it so recent that chronological distinctions would require Talmudic hairsplitting Ergo, alphabetization George eventually caved in, but for the sake of marital harmony than because of a true conversion A particularly bad moment occurred while he was in the process of transferring my Shakespeare collection from one bookcase to another and I called out, Be sure to keep the plays in chronological order You mean we re going to be chronological within each author he gasped But no one even knows for sure when Shakespeare wrote his plays Well, I blustered, we know he wrote Romeo and Juliet before The Tempest. I d like to see that reflected on our shelves George says that was one of the few times he has seriously contemplated divorce.

  8. says:

    October 2012I don t always read books about books, but when I do, my to read list suddenly grows Still, it s nice to read someone who understands me so well Alas, wrote Henry Ward Beecher Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore Mine is relatively strong at Barnes Noble, because I know that if I resist a volume on one visit, and someone else buys it, an identical volume will pop up in its place like a plastic duck in a shooting gallery And if I resist that one, there will be another day, another duck In a secondhand bookstore, each volume is one of a kind, neither replaceable from a publisher s warehouse nor visually identical to its original siblings, which have accreted individuality with every ownership If I don t buy the book now, I may never have another chance And therefore, like Beecher, who believed the temptations of drink were paltry compared with the temptations of books, I am weak Secondhand Prose, p 150 Meet Anne Fadiman, my new BFF In these essays, originally published in Civilization magazine, Fadiman shares her love and life of books and the written word In charming tales about vocabulary and grammar and the obsessive need to fix errors of both , Odd Shelves and the odd titles found on them in her case, a vast collection of books on polar exploration, and it s a good thing she didn t offer any titles because I would ve had to add them all , challenges of combining one s library with a loved one s own, the many proper ways of handling a book including using them as building blocks , as well as joys of reading aloud, reading about food, and reading books in the place they are about the nearest I ever managed was reading George R R Martin s A Storm of Swords on a bus in Southern France , and , Fadiman keeps pointing out that her love of books and reading vastly surpasses mine, but I m not going to let that come between us What are Bestest Friends for, if not to share and recommend good books Now if only she ll return my calls Anne Anne Where are you We were supposed to go bookstore browsing today Anne Are you there Hello

  9. says:

    There are two groups of people in this world The first are erotically aroused by eating voluptuous, dripping fruits and having the fruity, pulpy juices trickle down their chins The second would just like to get to a sink and wash it all off Count me among the latter Anne Fadiman is the former I have always preferred Keats to Wordsworth, but I was never able to put my finger on why until I read that Wordsworth, according to a visitor, will live for a month on cold beef, and the next on cold bacon, whereas Keats once wrote his friend Charles Wentworth Dilke Talking of Pleasure, this moment I was writing with one hand, and with the other holding to my Mouth a Nectarine good God how fine It went down soft, pulpy, slushy, oozy all its delicious embonpoint melted down my throat like a large Beatified strawberry.I have never read two sexier sentences.So hippie bourgeois As is the first trip she and her future husband George took, to the Grand Canyon, where they skinny dipped and washed each other s hair in the Colorado River and read aloud John Wesley Powell s The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons.Some things she writes are odd, and not believable She loves the written word so much that, having run out of regular reading material in her apartment, she began obsessively poring over a 1974 Toyota Corolla manual Really She should have just sat back and daydreamed I think her writing would be better for it Sometimes she is overcome by twee A thin book gets tightly packed in among her other books and goes AWOL for awhile Finally, she finds it Out tumbled the vanished ectomorph She and her husband develop a habit of reading aloud to each other before bedtime She figures The Odyssey will take them six months When we started, I felt we were too busy to read Homer Now I feel we are too busy not to read him That level of profundity belongs in O The Oprah Magazine, or else maybe I heard Roger Rosenblatt ruminate it on MacNeil Lehrer Rosenblatt s style might be called pedestrian twee Maybe I m just being mean, but would she have been offered a column in the Library of Congress s in house magazine, Civilization, if her last name weren t Fadiman Would she have gotten a summer job interview as a 19 year old with Wallace Shawn at the New Yorker It s not all bad I enjoyed some of the essays, like the ones on plagiarism Nothing New Under the Sun and the Fadiman family s anal proofreading habits, which I share I dug the anecdote about the Danish hotel chambermaid who, finding Fadiman s 13 year old brother had left an open book face down on the bedside table, left a signed note SIR, YOU MUST NEVER DO THAT TO A BOOK.

  10. says:

    First read Jan 2016Re read May 2017Re read 2 February 2018Re read 3 June 2018Re read 4 February 2019There isn t anything I can say about this wonderful book of essays except I absolutely love it and anticipate re reading it many times in the years to come.5 5 stars, best of 2016 best of 2017

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