Starred Review. Fadiman, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall, makes a bold claim: "I believe the survival of the familiar essay is worth fighting for." The "familiar essays" that Fadiman champions and writes are in the mold of the early 19th century, rather than critical or personal works as we've come to know them. Her essays combine a personal perspective with a far-reaching curiosity about the world, resulting in pieces that are neither so objective the reader can't see the writer behind them nor too self-absorbed. And spending some time with Fadiman is a pure delight. She loves the natural world and taxonomies of all kinds, as well as ice cream and coffee. Her love of the romantic age goes beyond the stylistic, and she prefers Coleridge and Lamb over Wordsworth and Southey. The collection rolls good-naturedly through its subjects until the final piece—an account of a whitewater rafting trip that went tragically awry, a harrowing reminder of the stakes on which all endeavors rest. This collection is a perfectly faceted little gem. Essayists, of both the critical and personal sort, could do worse than to follow Fadiman into the realm of the familiar. (May)
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Fadiman begins her second essay collection by quoting her father, the waggish intellectual of page, radio, and television Clifton Fadiman, lamenting the impending demise of the "familiar essay." Decades later, Anne is happy to report that the essay has survived, even if the familiar essay is now less, well, familiar than the critical or personal essay. A familiar essay is a confiding, inquiring, and witty reflection on a passionately considered subject. This intimate form was perfected by Charles Lamb, a writer Anne adores. With Lamb and her father serving as muses, Fadiman writes funny and keen essays that seemingly without effort mesh the personal with the literary and historical to surprising and edifying ends. Fadiman finds lessons for living in the contemplation of ice cream and coffee, the adventures of an Arctic explorer, and the collecting of butterflies. A master of the tangential, a close observer, and a lover of language, Fadiman is blithely brilliant in her pursuit of beauty and meaning as she wrestles with questions of life, death, and rebirth. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
It's always a pleasure to read a book by Anne Fadiman. Each essay is a marvel of erudition and beautifully crafted prose.Published 13 months ago by LAB
I always enjoy reading Anne Fadiman and her use of the English language is unbelievable. Ex Libris is still my favorite, however.Published 15 months ago by K. Spangler
For lovers of books, personal essays and anyone who enjoys an intelligent book.when shall we be graced again by another instalment?Published on August 3, 2013 by antonios kosmopoulos
Ann Fadiman's tenure as editor of THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR marked a high point for that magazine that I've felt it hasn't been able to match since she left. Read morePublished on June 17, 2013 by Bryan Byrd
I was interested in this book and delighted to discover that the Timberland Library had it. Anne Fadiman writes about familiar things: her crush on Charles Lamb, her habit of... Read morePublished on July 4, 2012 by Black Plum
I'm not sure why my mother gave me a copy of this book for Christmas last year. She reads mysteries and I write them, so a literary essay collection was a surprise. Read morePublished on March 10, 2012 by Debra Purdy Kong
I paid full price for this book; I only do that for books I really, really want to read.
The truth is, however, I was disappointed. I don't know why. Read more
I've written before about Fadiman's middlebrow preening (Ex Libris) either here or on amazon.co.uk so there's nothing much to add - nothing about nothing, in fact! Read morePublished on August 19, 2011 by Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso'