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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by…

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (1998)

by Anne Fadiman

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Showing 1-5 of 185 (next | show all)
Delightful collection of short essays by a lover of books. This was light enough for me to hoover up in a single sitting and funny enough for me to stop and read passages out loud to whoever was sitting next to me. This is for anyone who cannot stop themselves from proofreading menus, billboards and Facebook posts. You are not alone. ( )
1 vote asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
Didn't finish - it had a kind of aristocratic air that didn't engage me. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
It has become familiar. Perhaps, excessively so. I have ventured again for family reasons to a funeral home. This is five times in the last nine months. This reflects a turning of corners in my family dynamics. While it isn't unusual for people at my work to pass prematurely, there has been a statistical glut in my family where people live beyond the norm and have now passed in quick succession. I have also begun buying books with regularity upon leaving the funeral home or cemetery. In itself, this isn't unique. I buy books all the time. Somehow this smells strange.

Monday night I left a funeral home in Salem, a small town north of here where I lived on two occasions; once as a child fresh from Detroit and once with my grandmother for a year during my early twenties. Walking out, I was overcome with concern about my sister's family and choosing not to dwell on such, I went over to a charity shop where I found Ex Libris waiting for me. While many of the 18 essays in Ms. Fadiman's book aren't about reading, there a few about writing and editing, I found myself carried along. What else should one expect from distilled magazine pieces?

The nod about books on books was lasting. Such a notion is still a privilege of the used book repository.
( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Without a doubt, this book of essays is well-written, witty, and insightful. I laughed out loud at numerous places, and my smile made frequent appearances. I loved the essay on plagiarism and the one on catalogs. However, there was something a bit off-putting about it.

Despite her prodigious vocabulary, I'm not quite sure the author knows what the word "common" means. Her experience with books, being the scion of well-off two parents from the New York literary elite and the wife of another member, is hardly that of the average person. The title sets an expectation of relatable material for all bibliophiles, but this simply is not the case.

There is an element of literary snobbishness in this book as well. At one point, she refers to science fiction as junk, and throughout, it's made clear in tone and content that only certain types of reading qualifies as truly reading. As a reading omnivore, I have no space for that in my life. As an egalitarian, who passionately believes in the inherent value of others, I find the smugness a bit unbearable. ( )
1 vote Zoes_Human | Feb 12, 2019 |
A great book for book lovers! A collection of personal essays on various bookish topics, such as the joys of second hand book shopping, how to organise a personal collection, and a chapter on books about books (in a book about books, delicious!). I am only deducting half a star because she only reads very serious, very literary works, with a slight snobbish sneer for sci-fi. ( )
  Hobbitlass | Dec 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 185 (next | show all)
The book is a modest, charming, lighthearted gambol among the stacks. It serves up neither ideas nor theories but anecdotes about the joys of collecting and reading books.
added by jburlinson | editSalon, Dan Cryer (Oct 7, 1998)
A terribly entertaining collection of personal essays about books, reading, language, and the endearing pathologies of those who love books.
added by jburlinson | editBoston Book Review, Patsy Baudoin (Jan 23, 1998)
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For Clifton Fadiman
and Annalee Jacoby Fadiman,
who built my ancestral castles
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When the Irish novelist John McGahern was a child, his sisters unlaced and removed one of his shoes while he was reading.
A few months ago, my husband and I decided to mix our books together.
Wake is just the right verb, because there is a certain kind of child who awakens from a book as from an abyssal sleep, swimming heavily up through layers of consciousness toward a reality that seems less real than the dream-state that has been left behind.
I, on the other hand, believe that books, maps, scissors, and Scotch tape dispensers are all unreliable vagrants, likely to take off for parts unknown unless strictly confined to quarters.
It has long been my belief that everyone's library contains an Odd Shelf. On this shelf rests a small, mysterious corpus of volumes whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which, upon closer inspection, reveals a good deal about its owner.
Americans admire success. Englishmen admire heroic failure.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374527229, Paperback)

The subtitle of Anne Fadiman's slim collection of essays is Confessions of a Common Reader, but if there is one thing Fadiman is not, it's common. In her previous work of nonfiction, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, she brought both skill and empathy to her balanced exploration of clashing cultures and medical tragedy. The subject matter here is lighter, but imbued with the same fine prose and big heart. Ex Libris is an extended love letter to language and to the wonders it performs. Fadiman is a woman who loves words; in "The Joy of Sesquipedalians" (very long words), she describes an entire family besotted with them: "When I was growing up, not only did my family walk around spouting sesquipedalians, but we viewed all forms of intellectual competition as a sacrament, a kind of holy water as it were, to be slathered on at every opportunity." From very long words it's just a short jump to literature, and Fadiman speaks joyfully of books, book collecting, and book ownership ("In my view, nineteen pounds of old books are at least nineteen times as delicious as one pound of fresh caviar"). In "Marrying Libraries" Fadiman describes the emotionally fraught task of merging her collection with her husband's: "After five years of marriage and a child, George and I finally resolved that we were ready for the more profound intimacy of library consolidation. It was unclear, however, how we were to find a meeting point between his English-garden approach and my French-garden one." Perhaps some marriages could not have stood the strain of such an ordeal, but for this one, the merging of books becomes a metaphor for the solidity of their relationship.

Over the course of 18 charming essays Fadiman ranges from the "odd shelf" ("a small, mysterious corpus of volumes whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which, upon closer inspection reveals a good deal about its owner") to plagiarism ("the more I've read about plagiarism, the more I've come to think that literature is one big recycling bin") to the pleasures of reading aloud ("When you read silently, only the writer performs. When you read aloud, the performance is collaborative"). Fadiman delivers these essays with the expectation that her readers will love and appreciate good books and the power of language as much as she does. Indeed, reading Ex Libris is likely to bring up warm memories of old favorites and a powerful urge to revisit one's own "odd shelf" pronto. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:27 -0400)

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A collection of essays discusses the central and joyful importance of books and reading in the author's life.

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