Friday, April 4, 2014

And Now for Something Completely Different...

And now for something completely different: a book review, at least I don't think I've done one before...
Bookmarks by shellseye Etsy

"Ex Libris" by Anne Fadiman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1998
This is a book is most often described/catagorized as a book about books but, from my point of view anyway, is more of a book about & for book lovers: All (well, maybe not all...most? many? probably not 'all') of our strangge habits & beliefs about books; a quirky tribe brought together in our love of books, but divided in the practices & rituals of our particular 'religion.' Some of us believe that books should remain pristeen, even if read: no beent spines, no folded corners while others believe that books should be well loved, devoured page by page, annotated & remembered & this divide is only the tip of the iceberg. Fadiman introduces to many book lover rituals, in the habits of her friends, family & even more than one historical figure.
Since this is a work or really many works of non fiction, tied together by a mutual love & reading of books & of tthe people who write them, I can't say that there is a favorite character here. I find theem all fascinating & real, eaach with his or her own quirks & rrationalized idiosyncracies. If I had to choose from among them, I'd maybe say the author, herself as she relates the tales of those around her. Personally, I enjoyed reading these tales, both amused by the quirks & sometimes appalled by the odd rituals presented here.
I found the book difficult to get into, at first, filled with obscure & sometimes antiquated terms, some (but not all) of which the meaning could be guessed through context. I often re-read books & if I re-read this one, I'll try it with some sort of dictionary by my side, to capture more of these elusive terms. This could only serve to add meaning to an already interesting sociological exploration.
The book is divided into small chapters or essays & so I can't really say that I have a favorite or least favorite part, each part being separate, but pretty much equal. The only thing that might be changed about the book, would be the addition of a glossary of terms in the back. This might end up as too much of a distraction, so maybe it should be left as is, a choice for the reader, to have references or not.
I have not read any other books by this author, but I may now, having read this one. She seems to have a lifetimes worth of annecdotes & stories to tell. I would definitely recommend this book to others interested in books, reading & even sociology.
I'm not sure why, since the title reaally does say alot about the book, but I was surprised by how little of the book was about books, but instead was more about people; how within a sub culture (lovers of books) with so many similarities, how different people really are & what an interesting thing that can be. Maybe if the book had been called "Ex Libris: Observations of a Common Reader" instead of "Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader" I would have been less surprised, but then, again I would have been less interested in reading it. It would have sounded less human & more clinical. Maybe, the author's title is best, after all.
I hope I've given you an idea of the book, without revealing too much & that maybe you'll read it, if you haven't already...SAM

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