Wednesday, April 15, 2009

At Large and At Small

At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays
Anne Fadiman (2007, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

"Today's readers encounter plenty of critical essays (more brain than heart) and plenty of personal--very personal--essays (more heart than brain), but not many familiar essays (equal measures of both)." Anne Fadiman's own collection of familiar essays stands as a small, pleasing correction to that imbalance. Her choice of subjects includes some that most people have experienced, like ice cream and coffee, and some that are more idiosyncratic, such as her childhood passions for butterfly collecting and Arctic explorers. She also tempts us into contemplation of Samuel Coleridge and Charles Lamb, both their own writing and good books about them. The charm of Fadiman's voice makes her considerable erudition go down very easily.

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