One of the books I bought while visiting rymenhild
was Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
, a collection of short essays by Anne Fadiman. I bought it solely because I greatly enjoyed another book of hers*, because it was $1.25, and because she referenced Virginia Woolf in the title and preface. It's utterly charming.
The first essay is about the time that she and her husband decided to bite the bullet and combine their book collections. This didn't happen until after they'd been married for five years, so you know they were taking this important decision seriously. Of course, there were difficulties.
( Three more quotes behind the cut )
One day I noticed that the Iliad and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire had somehow found their way to the Friends and Relatives section. Upon being confronted with the evidence, George crossed his fingers and said, "Well, Gibbon and I were like that."
The second essay (appropriately titled The Joy of Sesquepedians
) was all about the joy of finding a whole dozen
new words that she'd never come across before, like retromingent
, and monophysite
I might need to write a fan letter.
*I read The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down
for grad school. It's a brilliant cross-cultural work about a little Hmong girl with an epileptic disorder. The Hmong are a tribe that most recently comes from Malaysia, many of whom were emigrated to the US en masse after the Vietnam War, where they fought on our side. She discusses the history of all of this in the book, but her primary focus is on the little girl's disorder, the medical treatment she received, the Hmong explanation for it (which involved demons), and the almost total lack of understanding between the parents and the doctors. Her descriptions of their culture are fascinating and respectful, and she balances our belief in Western medicine with trust in Hmong beliefs very nicely.