This is my kind of memoir. Or non-fiction. Or essays. Collection of whatever it is we wish to call it. Vignettes.
I have to thank one of my favourite bloggers for bringing this beautiful slim volume of vignettes to my attention, literally. And if you haven’t already been there, you must visit: Vishy The Knight, an impassioned bibliophile and meticulous reviewer of a wide range of books.
Anne Fadiman has compiled this collection of eighteen essays written over a period of four years. She calls them confessions, I say they are a tribute to reading and to books. The subtitle to the book actually reads Confessions of a Common Reader, but I think she might also be a bibliobibuli (those who read too much). One of the most preferable over indulgences I can think of.
I love that her first line is a reference to the Irish novelist John McGahern. She shares an anecdote from his reading life that she relates to and that many of you, if you have ever been carried away with the reading of a book to the exclusion of all else, will recognise. From that first sketch we read on continuing to delight in her bookish obsessions and hilarious family, with whom she has long shared the joy of sesquipedalians (big words).
Merging book collections with her husband only takes six years after moving in together and the difficult decisions that are required to be made as a result of deciding not to keep multiple copies and other dilemmas are hilarious and almost comforting to read.
Her attitude on how to treat a book starts off with a hilarious encounter between her brother and a hotel chambermaid in Copenhagen, a woman who shared their passion for books but clearly sat in the opposite camp with regard to their treatment.
“To us, a book’s words were holy, but the paper, cloth, cardboard, glue, thread, and ink that contained them were a mere vessel, and it was no sacrilege to treat them as wantonly as desire and pragmatism dictated. Hard use was a sign not of disrespect but of intimacy.”
It is the smallest book ever to teach a reader so many new words and the perfect beginning of year read. A collection of entertaining, head-nodding, essays by a bibliophile. A must read for all!
How differently do mental pleasures
Lead us from book to book to roam
And ever, with these ancient treasures,
How cheerful winter nights become!
A happy life grows warm in every limb;
And if a precious parchment you unroll,
Your senses in delight appear to swim
And heaven itself descends upon your soul.
– J.W.Goethe (1749-1832)