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At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays by…
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At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays (2007)

by Anne Fadiman

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
"In the fall of 1998 I finally gave in and signed up for e-mail. I had resisted for a long time. My husband and I were proud of our retrograde status. Not only did we lack a modem, but we didn't own a car, a microwave, a Cuisinart, an electric can opener, a CD player, or a cell phone. It's hard to give up that sort of backward image. I worried that our friends wouldn't have enough to make fun of."

Anne Fadiman, specialist in the personal essay, turns her hand to a number of large and philosophical topics ("at large") and more mundane themes ("at small"). This short book of essays, each about 10 pages, is full of nuggets of well-expressed thoughts.

I like Ms Fadiman. Were we to meet in real life, I think we'd get on pretty well. Especially given her thoughts on coffee, ice cream, and morning larks v night owls (I'm the former, she's the latter, but I like her considerations about how the two co-exist).

"I recently calculated... that had I eaten no ice cream since the age of eighteen, I would currently weigh -416 pounds. I might be lighter than air, but I would be miserable... Now, under the watchful eye of a husband so virtuous that he actually prefers low-fat frozen yogurt, I go through the motions of scooping a modest hemisphere of ice cream into a small bowl, but we both know that during the course of the evening I will simply shuttle to and from the freezer until the entirety of the pint has been transferred from carton to bowl to me."

Fadiman ruthlessly brings her family and spouse into these essays, which makes them all the more approachable and personable. I like hearing that her husband is a lark and the funny stories arising from the mismatch (and how they deal with it). The family occupation, mentioned in a previous Fadiman essay collection, of finding typos and bad translations on menus, rung very true with me.

She's a very clever author too, with a talent for finding the funny quote in her source material. This from an essay about Charles & Mary Lamb (yes, those Shakespeare Lambs):

"My life has been somewhat diversified of late. The 6 weeks that finished last year and began this, your very humble servant spent very agreeably in a mad house at Hoxton. I am got somewhat rational now, & don't bite anyone."

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but if there were more essays like this, I'd read them. Maybe this is why I like blogs so much? ( )
  readingwithtea | Dec 14, 2014 |
Lovely collection of personal essays, ending with a powerful and disturbing memoir. Made me want to compulsively chase up her sources on Charles Lamb, natural history museums, and Nabokov's butterfly collecting. ( )
  adzebill | Aug 4, 2013 |
Engrossing and erudite essays are gem-like in their precision and sparkle. Informed by Fadiman's multi-faceted education and just personal enough to add depth and clarity. Highly recommended. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
I was charmed by this book. The only thing that alternated between charming me and irritating me was that Fadiman uses a lot of words that I am just not familiar with. She readily admits to a "weakness for long words" right up front - in the very first essay, as a matter of fact. And now I have a four columns of words on a post-it with which I need to familiarize myself - not my standard reading experience at all.

I should say, though, that her admirably extensive vocabulary doesn't get in the way of the book at all. And who knows - it might just make me a better Scrabble player! ( )
  cat-ballou | Apr 2, 2013 |
I'm sort of astonished by how much I enjoyed this. (Lack of rating/shelves is due to a screwy internet connection.) The juxtaposition of the personal and the factual is a very hard thing to pull off properly, but I almost never wanted to tell Fadiman to shut up and stop talking. The subjects she chooses are interesting, if a trifle conventional, I'm fascinated by the glimpses of her young-adulthood and brother, and the writing is elegant and fluent. ( )
  cricketbats | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Collector of Tiger Swallowtails,
Emperor of Ice Cream.
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Just over half a century ago, in "A Gentle Dirge for the Familiar Essay", a dispirited writer mourned the imminent death of a genre that was "setting to the horizon, along with the whole constellation: formal manners, apt quotation, Greek and latin, clear speech conversation, the gentleman's library, the gentleman's income, the gentleman."
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Kim said, "When you collect nature, there are two moments of discovery. The first comes when you find the thing. The second comes when you find the name."
Don't we all just keep doing the things that make us even more like ourselves?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374106622, Hardcover)

In At Large and At Small, Anne Fadiman returns to one of her favorite genres, the familiar essay—a beloved and hallowed literary tradition recognized for both its intellectual breadth and its miniaturist focus on everyday experiences. With the combination of humor and erudition that has distinguished her as one of our finest essayists, Fadiman draws us into twelve of her personal obsessions: from her slightly sinister childhood enthusiasm for catching butterflies to her monumental crush on Charles Lamb, from her wistfulness for the days of letter-writing to the challenges and rewards of moving from the city to the country.

Many of these essays were composed “under the influence” of the subject at hand. Fadiman ingests a shocking amount of ice cream and divulges her passion for Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip and her brother’s homemade Liquid Nitrogen Kahlúa Coffee (recipe included); she sustains a terrific caffeine buzz while recounting Balzac’s coffee addiction; and she stays up till dawn to write about being a night owl, examining the rhythms of our circadian clocks and sharing such insomnia cures as her father’s nocturnal word games and Lewis Carroll’s mathematical puzzles. At Large and At Small is a brilliant and delightful collection of essays that harkens a revival of a long-cherished genre.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:03 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"In At Large and At Small, Anne Fadiman returns to one of her favorite genres, the familiar essay - a beloved literary tradition recognized for both its intellectual breadth ("at large") and its miniaturist focus ("at small"). With the combination of humor and erudition that has distinguished her as one of our finest essayists, Fadiman draws us into twelve of her personal obsessions, ranging from her slightly sinister childhood enthusiasm for catching butterflies to her monumental crush on Charles Lamb, from her wistfulness for the days of letter-writing to the challenges and rewards of moving from the city to the country."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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