Sydney's Reviews > Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
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's review
Mar 28, 2008

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Read in May, 2008

Parts of this book are utterly delightful. The chapters on combining libraries (first that of her husband and her own after ten years of marriage, later on with her father's) get to how visceral and symbolic a love a books can be. There is also the chapter on how the first thing she used to do with books (her parents') was build castles. All refreshing. But then there were moments where I thought she was Joyce Chafen (the ghastly, oblivous mother in White Teeth) particularly with Fadiman U. But the quality I found the most impossible to digest ultimately is her desire to out-visceral anyone else's love of books. The early chapter where she divides book lovers in the platonic courtly type or the carnal type distills this desire. According to this chapter, you only really really really love books if you treat them like the Fadimans do, including ripping off and trashing the half of the paperback you've already read before you get on the plane so it doesn't weigh you down. She also assumed that if you don't do that, then you're always trying to keep your book looking just like new. Has she never heard of us middle of the road folk who believe in, say, marginalia but don't go around ripping our books in half? I'm not sure yet why I found this lack of a middle ground so totally offensive but I did. If and when I figure out why, I'll let you know. And I'm sure y'all'll be waiting on the edge of your seats.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Kate One of my favorite books. I've read this no fewer than thrice. Anne Fadiman inspired me not only to read, but to write.

message 2: by Michael (new)

Michael I read this a few years ago and thought it was a really splendid book. You'll have to mention some of the highlights so that I can recall what I liked about it...

Angela I agree with you about the need for some middle ground. I felt the same frustration as I read that chapter.

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