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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by…
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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (original 1998; edition 2000)

by Anne Fadiman (Author)

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3,5031761,518 (4.21)660
Member:elliepotten
Title:Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
Authors:Anne Fadiman (Author)
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2000), Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2006, Read in 2012
Rating:****1/2
Tags:autobiography, essays, literature, books, books about books, Dewey Read-a-thon prize

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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (1998)

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English (168)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  English (175)
Showing 1-5 of 168 (next | show all)
The subtitle of Anne Fadiman’s “Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader” is misleading; as portrayed through her essays, she is certainly more of an elitist reader. While there are a handful of quite delightful and very funny essays that strike just the right chord for the "common" bibliophiles and logophiles, most of the essays had an unmistakable snobbish tone. Overall, this book was a disappointment. ( )
  ghr4 | Oct 24, 2016 |
I loved this from first word to last. A collection of essays first published in Civilization, each about some facet of the love of books or the written word.

Her first essay, Marrying Libraries started the collection off on a high note with me; after 10 years together, I still can't quite embrace the marriage of my books with MT's: he has his shelves and I, mine. I've only recently (last weekend) catalogued his books in my database software; until that point neither of us knew what he had or didn't.

Other highpoints of the collection for me included Never Do That To a Book, My Ancestral Castles and Secondhand Prose. Fadiman's essay on plagiarism was...interesting. I'm fairly sure it's heavily satirical, (it's 10 pages long and has 38 footnotes, some rather absurd) but reading it, it is clear that she has strong feelings about the theft of other people's work. I was left with the feeling that she felt conflicted about such a sticky subject. She has also written an outstanding essay on compulsive proofreading, whose title includes those handwritten edits that are impossible to reproduce on a screen with nothing but a keyboard. But it's one of my top three favourites of the book.

Ex Libris wraps up with a small chapter of recommended reading; a list of books about books; a list I'll be using in the next few days as I look for more titles to add to my TBR. ( )
  murderbydeath | Oct 13, 2016 |
A collection of essays about books and reading and writing them. Fadiman's tone is gently humourous and she writes affectionately about her family. I related strongly to the chapter on being a compulsive proofreader. ( )
  pgchuis | Oct 2, 2016 |
4.5 stars. Charmingly amusing, these little essays made me appreciate inscriptions, discover new words, and laugh at the eccentricities we bibliophiles share. ( )
  katcoviello | Sep 21, 2016 |
Smart, dryly funny essay collection. ( )
  KimMeyer | Sep 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 168 (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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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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For Clifton Fadiman
and Annalee Jacoby Fadiman,
who built my ancestral castles
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Preface:
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.
Quotations
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)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Ex Libris 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 twenty-two-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who considered herself truly married only when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of flyleaf inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proofreading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading aloud.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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