I had intended, actually I was supposed to write a review for my LibraryThing Early Reviewer According to Jane by Marilyn Brant. I finished it last night. However, in the midst of finishing the book I’m about to review (in its defense I started it first) the ideas for a post kept assailing my mind., Rather than risk losing those thoughts I began to write them down while reading. I still need to review According to Jane and hopefully that will be in the next day or so. Beware, though, I’m an excellent procrastinator.
Have you ever read a book and felt as though the author had beaten you? It is not fun. You purchase a book thinking, “Oh I’ve found a kindred spirit in this author. I can’t wait to read what he/she has to say”. Such was the book Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman.
It is a biased opinion, but I believe myself to be somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to all things book related. I am a bibliophile after all. I thought Anne Fadiman’s book would nourish those ideas. Wrong! The first half of the book, while entertaining at times left me feeling down right stupid and incompetent. I feel as though I’ll never achieve that level of “smarts,” time to give up. I also felt she was a bit of a degrader. As though if I met her in person she would turn up her nose to me and walk off in a huff (I’m being extremely judgmental, I realize.). I’d hope for an embrace or a warm handshake as a fellow book lover (What is a warm handshake? If my hands are cold, does that mean something else entirely?). Thoughts on a few essays follow.
At times I wanted to throw the book at the wall (too horrid to contemplate really), but the better reaction seemed to be shouting, “Oh for crying out loud get on with it!”
I have never (to my knowledge) come face to face or spoken with a feminist (sorry don’t mean to sound as though they are some exotic rare species, really I don’t). Although I’m told I have some qualities of one. However, my other traits out weigh those by far.* The essay, The His’Er Problem was (trying to think of a proper word) ridiculous seems right to say, but not necessarily. I imagine when you say, “I”m a feminist,” you’re not wishy washy about it. You either jump in or not at all. The essay, I felt was proof she has jumped in, but really must we argue every word to make it equal? Why can’t it be assumed?** I’ve never read The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willen Van Loon and thought to myself this is only referring to the male species, not fair. It would be nice to though, seeing as the first several chapters are laughable. I wouldn’t want to admit to being part of the mankind that evolved from jellyfish. Aren’t we grateful that John 3:16 says whosoever and not he or him or some other form of male shackling pronoun? Women would have to begin to worry that Jesus didn’t come to save them too. Ridiculous! Thank goodness I don’t think like that, I have better things to argue and worry about.
If I was disappointed in the first half, the second half of the book redeemed itself. I was smiling and laughing. I nodded my head in agreement more times than I can remember.
The essay, Inset a Carrot (which had proofreading marks in and around the title) was the essay I found a bit of that kindred spirit I was hoping for. When I read books with errors in them my first reaction is a slumping of my upper body. Especially if the said book is from a popular well-known publisher (I have high expectations). My eyes will then continue to dart to the error, as though along with hideous typos the printer attached eye glue. Recently an error was so obvious and preposterous I ran around my house consecutively showing each person in my family. Thank you Anne Fadiman! It is good to know I am not alone in this. However, my proofreading typically stays within the bounds of misspelled words, occasionally a comma. My grammar skills are (ashamedly so) down right disgusting. I would like to improve though. I am determined from now on I will keep a journal of the errors I find in books.
Reading the essay The Literary Glutton left me salivating. I thought I was hungry before starting it, my stomach became alive with ferocious growling. I still haven't sated it and I think this essay is best left for a full stomach. It never crossed my mind to think that reading about food would have such an affect. Now I know it to be true.
I feel that the second half of the book helped place it in a better light in my mind. Read, it you may enjoy it. However, prepare yourself for a self-esteem beating in the beginning and have a dictionary on hand. My eyes are still in a fog from the many words I didn't know.
One last thought, I must read Charles Lamb, something by him or about him. He has now come to my attention twice in the past month. The only thing I knew about him before now was that he wrote abridgements of Shakespeare. Can you see my knowledge of him is sorely lacking?
*I think I need to look into this more. I sound like I know all about feminism and truly I’m rather ignorant and shouldn’t talk like I know more than I really do.
** If your confused read the essay.