Friday, September 05, 2008
Book Report: Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
This book was recommended to me buy a reader of my blog after I wrote a post about how many books we own. It's nonfiction, which is not my genre of choice. It's a collection of essays, which I like the idea of, but essays tend to be nonfiction. But it's about books (which I love), and it's short. I really liked it from the start, but I always find nonfiction harder to get into, so it sat around neglected for a bit.
Anne Fadiman is very smart, very well read and very funny. You can read most of the first essay here about how after being married for five years, she and her husband finally joined their libraries together. I read a lot of this essay aloud to my husband. I read a lot of different parts of this book aloud to my husband.
This book made me feel like I am no where near as well read as I thought I was. I realize that there are a lot of classic books out there that I haven't read, but I thought I'd at least heard of most of the more famous books and their authors. She also used a lot of huge words and while vocabulary has never been my strong point, I've never come across so many words that I was clueless about. So while this book was funny and made me laugh, it also made me feel a bit... not smart.
One of Fadiman's essays is about the treatment of a book, how some people treasure the book and won't crack the spine, scribble in a margin, or dog ear a page, while others treasure only the words and not the physical book itself. One essay is about the odd shelf, that bookshelf everyone has in their house that is sort of a crazy mix of books that don't quite belong together, but they don't belong anywhere else either.
I'll leave you with one of the many parts that made me laugh, in the essay title "Words on a Flyleaf" she tells the following:
How melancholy, my contrast, are the legions of inscribed copies one finds in any used-book rack, each a memorial to a betrayed friendship. Do the traitors believe that their faithlessness will remain secret? If so, they are sadly deluded. Hundreds of people will witness it, including, on occasion, the inscriber. Shaw once came across one of his books in a secondhand shop, inscribed To _____ with esteem, George Bernard Shaw. He bought the book and returned it to _____, adding the line, With renewed esteem, George Bernard Shaw.