A book for readers

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader - Anne Fadiman

So Weird Al needs to dedicate his song “Word Crimes” to the Fadiman family, and I really want to met Fadiman and her husband George. (I swear, if I find they are divorced, I will sob uncontrollably for a minute).


                I picked this up at one of those really cheap book stores. You know the type with tables and not bookshelves. It was a pleasant surprise to read this book.


                Now, to be fair, not every essay in the book is great. The first one, however, is a beautiful piece of writing about love, marriage, and individual libraries is quite frankly worth the 3 dollars the book cost me. Seriously, if you ever see “Marrying Libraries” as a short eBook and you don’t possess this collection, buy it. Fadiman’s essay details the combining of her library and her husband’s. They are confronted with problems any book lover can understand. How to organize the volumes (this leads to thinking of divorce) and which duplicates to keep. This essay includes a story about a designer who simply organized books according to size and color. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people like that? But starting the collection with this essay is apt because while Fadiman is writing about her relationship with books, what also comes though is her relationship with her husband, a man who took her to a used bookstore on her birthday and brought her 19 pounds of books.


                Yep, he’s a keeper that one.


                Her essay “Never Do That to a Book” is about different types of readers – courtly and carnal. Which one are you? (I’m a carnal reader. Books and I get down and dirty).   The one essay about the Fadiman family and grammar is inspirational (and some SPAs should read it).


                A great many of the essays include gossipy bits about writers that Fadiman knows. For instance, you will discover how Mark Helprin leaves messages on answering machines. Then there is the bit about eating (like really eating) books. When the essays are one target and are about interaction with books as a whole, they are quite good.


                The essays that are slightly more general in reading subject matter, such as “The Odd Shelf”, aren’t bad but are somewhat less interesting, and perhaps lacking in some passion. For instance, the essay about the sonnet and poetry is nice, but it didn’t really grab me though Fadiman is spot on in her observations.


                The most inventive essay is the one about plagiarism, a timely essay even though it was written years ago.   Fadiman and George have a very wicked sense of humor.