She and her older brother would vie to see who could find the longest words; she writes that he won "with paradimethylaminobenzaldehyde," the word for "a smelly chemical that we used to sing to the tune of 'The Irish Washerwoman. With their parents, both writers, they used to compete with the contestants on the old weekly television program "G. College Bowl," a quiz show in which two teams of four students, each representing a different college, competed for scholarship money. Calling themselves Fadiman U.
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She and her older brother would vie to see who could find the longest words; she writes that he won "with paradimethylaminobenzaldehyde," the word for "a smelly chemical that we used to sing to the tune of 'The Irish Washerwoman. With their parents, both writers, they used to compete with the contestants on the old weekly television program "G. College Bowl," a quiz show in which two teams of four students, each representing a different college, competed for scholarship money.
Calling themselves Fadiman U. The four of them, "compulsive proofreaders," loved to catch people's mistakes in print. What a bunch of captious, carping, pettifogging little busybodies! She reports that Vera Evseevna Nabokov wrote to thank her on her husband's behalf for her "thoughtfulness.
Besides, Fadiman can't help herself. As she writes, her urges are probably genetic. In "Never Do That to a Book," she identifies those who revere books physically and are therefore believers in "courtly love," and those who underline, make marginal notes, tear pages out or keep reading books until they fall apart, and are thus believers in "carnal love.
In "Words on a Flyleaf," she considers what to do if you should find in a secondhand shop a book you've inscribed to a friend. When Shaw once came across one of his books, inscribed "To -- -- -- -- with esteem, George Bernard Shaw," he bought the book and returned it to -- -- -- -- , adding the line, "With renewed esteem, George Bernard Shaw.
And in "Eternal Ink," she considers how writers might record ideas that occur to them when they are not at their desks. Before it could fade, he shot a crow, plucked a feather, sharpened the tip, dipped it in crow's blood, and captured the sentence.
When she is not addressing practical matters, she is merely very charming, whisking us up odd literary byways -- like the sonnet writing of William Kunstler, the late radical defense lawyer, or a theory that the scarcity of first editions of "Alice in Wonderland" can be accounted for by the fact that so many of them were eaten by children.
First published in slightly different form in a column called "The Common Reader," written by Fadiman for Civilization magazine, these essays also breathe new life into such seemingly tired subjects as reading aloud, secondhand books, plagiarism and how children regard their parents' libraries. Fadiman reports that her daughter thought that John Updike's "Rabbit at Rest" was a story about "a sleepy bunny.
Her purpose in writing them was to go to what she considers the heart of reading: "not whether we wish to purchase a new book but how we maintain our connections with our old books, the ones we have lived with for years, the ones whose textures and colors and smells have become as familiar to us as our children's skin.
In "Ex Libris" Fadiman has produced a smart little book that one can happily welcome into the family and allow to start growing old. Return to the Books Home Page. Anne Fadiman.
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
Over the last few years, there have been a plethora of "books about books" published—more specifically, "readers on reading. In these 18 essays, Fadiman examines the memories and personalities created through reading, the joy of books themselves, and more complex issues such as the constant changes in our vocabulary, the need artificial or otherwise for nonbiased speech, and the eternal search for the "original idea. I kept no diary that year, but I had no need of one to remind me that that was the year I lost my virginity. It was all too apparent from the comments I wrote in my Viking edition. She believes that the marriage of her and her husband's libraries really and truly secured their commitment to each other.
Lust for words, and ice-cream too
It's only Anne Fadiman, essayist and literature professor, indulging her passion for home-made ice-cream. We'll come to that in a minute. To those who have read her work, Anne Fadiman is the object of cultish devotion. Her writing first appeared in Britain in , with the publication of Ex Libris , a rare and enchanting celebration of bibliophilia; one woman's salute to words like 'sesquipedalian', 'apopanax' and 'goetic', to the romance of flyleaf dedications, and to the joy of reading aloud.
EX LIBRIS: Confessions of a Common Reader
Readers are no strangers to arguing. In fact, there's a long list of things book-lovers can't stop fighting about : Whether to organize libraries by author or genre, whether its OK to read the movie tie-in edition of a book, and how much reading is, in fact, enough reading. But one of the biggest ways that all bibliophiles disagree, often to the point of heated and impassioned debates, is about the ways readers physically treat their books. Do you dog-ear or use a bookmark?
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