- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (September 5, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374530548
- ISBN-13: 978-0374530549
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,003,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Rereadings: Seventeen writers revisit books they love Paperback – September 5, 2006
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“An absolute delight for those of us who live to read (and reread) . . . Fadiman has done such a fine job of selecting and arranging these pieces that they become a kind of composite literary coming-of-age memoir from the geeky, horny adolescent madly thumbing Franny and Zooey or Lord Jim in some shag-carpeted suburban basement bedroom to the sadder but wiser critic, novelist, poet who gazes wistfully at the ghost of a younger self rising from the pages of a once-loved book.” ―David Laskin, The Seattle Times
“A delightful glimpse into the relationship between reader and book.” ―Teresa K. Weaver, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“f you’re a fan of Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris―and who among right-thinking people isn’t?―then your heart will skip a beat over her new anthology, Rereadings . . . thoroughly enjoyable essays” ―Claire Dederer, Newsday
“A deep and wonderfully complex story about relationships . . . Anne Fadiman's diverse collection of essays encourages readers to rethink the way we see our favorite books and ultimately the way we see ourselves through them.” ―Jill Marr, Pages
About the Author
Anne Fadiman is the author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, an L.A. Times Book Prize, and a Salon Book Award. She is also the author of two essay collections, At Large and At Small and Ex Libris. Her essays and articles have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, among other publications. She is the Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale.
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In the foreword, Fadiman tells of reading The Horse and His Boy (from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia) aloud to her young son and how differently she experienced the book from when she read it as a child. She goes on to make a compelling case for rereading in general. "If a book read when young is a lover, that same book, reread later on, is a friend...This may sound like a demotion, but after all, it is old friends, not old lovers, to whom you are most likely to turn when you need comfort."
The rest of the essays are part memoir and part literary criticism. Of the 18 books (I say books, even though one is a poem and one is an album cover), I've read only two. That mattered more for the essays that leaned more heavily towards criticism, but for the most part, the only prerequisite is an interest in books.
A particularly powerful essay is Diana Kappel Smith's review of a field guide to wildflowers, in which I read (with some envy) how the right book can wonderfully determine an entire life trajectory. My other favorites were Arthur Krystal's essay on an early 20th century boxing book and Katherine Ashenburg's essay on a series of books about a nurse, written for young readers in the 1940s and 50s.
Ultimately, it was impossible to read this book without reflecting on the books that affected me as a youth and wondering how they would affect me now. (How would the passionate activism in Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang or in Alice Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy strike me today?) It may be time to visit some old friends.
Everyting about this book, including the printing and hand feel (and not least the crazy-cheap Amazon price) led me to splurge on copies for friends. "Rereadings" is a book to give when you would feel self-conscious about a volume of poetry; when a jumble of psychobable or confessional would be embarass giver or recipient or both; and the burden of plowing through 500+ pages of popular history, biography, or memoir would be, well, doubly burdensome.
This book would be a find if just 5 of the essays furnished a total of an hour of instruction and delight. Be prepared to be surprised and engaged by a dozen more than that. And don't wait for the paperback. You'll want to share this one.
Editor Anne Fadiman has gathered pieces from a wide variety of authors, film makers, and journals writing about everything from PRIDE & PREJUDICE to the album lyrics to SGT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. The essayists also vary sharply in their approach to their material. Some are nostalgic. Others tongue-in-cheek. A few are measured and academic. All of them speak to the intimate nature of our relationship with what we read.
My personal favorite is probably Barbara Sjoholm's "The Ice Palace." She explores the fairy tale "The Snow Queen" framed by her own travelogue of a visit to an ice hotel near the very top of the world. Nadine Gordimer's discussion of the works of Colette was also a standout and shows a fictional world's uneasy dependence on its historical era.
As a whole, the collection rekindled my interest in some old favorites and also introduced me to others that I'm now eager to delve into for the first time.
The contrast with Patricia Meyer Spacks' run-of-the-mill professorial swansong, nondescript as either nostalgia or analysis, could hardly be more marked. Both creative and academic sectors write, we must hope, from inner necessity (for love) as well as duty, but the latter is more likely to end up doing it out of sheer habit or vanity