Friday, February 05, 2010

Ex Libris - Anne Fadiman

"'Books are food,' wrote the English critic Holbrook Jackson, 'libraries so many dishes of meat, served out for several palates...We eat them from love or necessity, as other foods, but most from love." Charles Lamb and Leigh Hunt were described by a friend as savouring 'the flavour of a rare passage of poetry with an exquisite relish, as though it were a morsel of ripe and juicy fruit.'"

Anne Fadiman is a writer and within this slim volume details her love affair with books among 18 essays covering various literary topics from what people use as bookmarks to the ever evolving nature of the pen. She also writes on courtly versus carnal book lovers and the strange collections that accumulate in personal libraries.

I picked up this little beauty on a whim. I must also confess that it was the cover that first attracted me. I love books written specifically with book lovers in mind. This is the kind of read a bibliophile luxuriates in and returns to again and again.

I was a little apprenhensive about this book as essays aren't my favourite form of writing but Fadiman makes it work. Not only is her writing humourous but it's also informative. The essays are peppered with little tidbits about literature, authors, life, etc. In "The Literary Glutton", she mentions how her son's DNA is now inextricably linked with Goodnight Moon because he'd chewed up and drooled on the corners. From there she segues into why so few first editions of Alice in Wonderland exist. They have been eaten by their readers. Books, literally devoured.

As well, the variety of subjects keeps the pace quick and the material interesting. Fadiman admits to a strange collection composed entirely of polar exploration. It's these quirks along with her diction that make these essays a joy to read. This book is a beautiful but tasty snack for the literarily inclined. My only complaint is that this book is altogher too short! I can't say enough about Fadiman's writing. Every book lover should pick up a copy.

Rating: 5/5

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