Thursday, March 24, 2005

Pleas of Adoration for a Common Reader

But there isn't enough time! And there are too many books!

Shush, says Anne Fadiman. I am here to totally renew and refresh your love of reading.

Oh man, says I. Prove it.

And she does. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is, sans doubt, the best thing I've read this year. Ms. Fadiman leads the type of life that I want to lead, a life of books and books and books. They are an inexorable part of her life: her first glimpse of the carnal world at age 14 was through a book. Her son Henry sharpened his teeth on the pages of Goodnight Moon. Every night, she and her husband read The Odyssey aloud to each other. And for her birthday, she once went into a used-book store and came out with nineteen pounds of used books.

Nick Hornby wishes he could write about books with the tenderness and familiarity that Ms. Fadiman possesses, her easy rapport with words (other people's as well as her own). And don't I wish it too.

As a rule, I dislike book covers made less than 30 years ago. Perhaps I am like Proust's grandmother, who only likes things that a) are functional, or b) have historical value. What semioses literature to me will always be the paisley hardcover with the title in white capital letters on the spine.

That being said, I love, love this cover. For a while, I considered expropriating the center image for my site layout, but then I decided that I really couldn't do it justice. Plus it would probably be illegal. But nevertheless I'd like to shake the hand of whoever came up with this particular ex libris. The dangling shoe is my favorite touch.