Book 32 in Cannonball Read 2
Anne Fadiman, best known for the wonderful non-fiction book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, has lived a life full of books, literature, reading, and writing. In Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, a series of essays, Fadiman shares her life of words with her reader, including her husband, her parents, and her literary tastes. The result is a highly personal, almost effervescent book that celebrates a love of books.
Fadiman explores the serious commitment it takes to merge two book collections, even after years of marriage, in ‘Marrying Libraries.’ In ‘Never Do That to a Book’, Fadiman talks about her messy love of books - she doesn’t always use bookmarks and the spines crack, she writes in her books, cookbooks get eggs and flour spilled on them. She differentiates this from ‘courtly love’ of books, which keeps the books themselves immaculate, and though she draws a bit of a false dichotomy - it’s simply not true that those who take good care of their books care more about the physical book than the words inside - it is a good read.
Fadiman explores her family history with books, showing how her life long love started as a child, when she built castles out of her father’s collection of Shakespeare. She details her family’s insistence on correct grammar, and their tendency to make corrections. Although these sorts of anecdotes could give the impression of fussiness or even elitism, Fadiman’s intimate style of writing and cheery attitude keeps it from becoming so. We could all do worse than demanding good writing and loving books until they fall apart.