Daily Trivia : Anne Fadiman

“The most important thing when starting out with essay writing is to find a voice with which you’re comfortable. You need to find a persona that is very much like you, but slightly caricatured. Think of it as your own voice turned up slightly in volume…Once you’ve found that voice, you’ll discover that the essay is something you can be serious or funny with, or both.”

That is Anne Fadiman, author, essayist, editor and teacher. She has many achievements to her name, including a National Book Critics Circle award, but she is best known for her essays.

Her best-selling essay collection Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is a book entirely about books — from purchasing them, to reading them, to handling them, loving them and finding more room for them.

The London Observer called Ex Libris “witty, enchanting, and supremely well-written.” It has been or will be translated into fifteen languages, including Korean and Catalan.

The book is full of insightful observations and interesting asides and it contains essays with charming titles such as, ‘Marrying Libraries’, ‘The Joy of Sesquipedalians’, ‘Never do that to a book’, ‘The PM’s Empire of Books’ and so on.

Fadiman’s most recent essay collection is At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays, in which she discloses her passions for (among other things) staying up late, reading Coleridge, drinking coffee, and ingesting large quantities of ice cream. The Christian Science Monitor called it “as close to a perfect book as you will ever hope to read.”

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Re reading books

If I like a book, I will read it again. If I love it, I will probably read it many times over.

A good book is like comfort food or a conversation with an old friend. It is more than just reading. It is an experience of sorts, a journey that was so good the first time around that I want to experience it again.

And each time I do, I’m likely to see or to think something that I didn’t see or think before. This means, of course, that I don’t read as many books as I otherwise might. But I don’t particularly care about that.

Most of the time, the book that I’m reading depends on the mood that I’m in. And sometimes, I’m in the mood to read something familiar.

A couple of weeks ago, it was Anne Fadiman’s ‘Ex Libris’. It is one of my favourite books about books. I have already read it a few times and it never fails to make me happy. Here’s an excerpt from the preface:

“…what I consider 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 colours and smells have become as familiar to us as our children’s skin.”