Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

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Anne Fadiman is--by her own admission--the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of Fanny Hill, whose husband buys her 19 pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over her roommate's 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in the apartment that she had not read at least twice.
This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many passionate readers, the books she loves have become chapters in her own life story. Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family. As someone who played at blocks with her father's 22-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who only really considered herself married when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proof-reading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading out loud. There is even a foray into pure literary gluttony--Charles Lamb liked buttered muffin crumbs between the leaves, and Fadiman knows of more than one reader who literally consumes page corners. Perfectly balanced between humor and erudition, Ex Libris establishes Fadiman as one of our finest contemporary essayists.
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Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia's parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run "Quiet War" in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia's pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.

Parents and doctors both wanted the best for Lia, but their ideas about the causes of her illness and its treatment could hardly have been more different. The Hmong see illness aand healing as spiritual matters linked to virtually everything in the universe, while medical community marks a division between body and soul, and concerns itself almost exclusively with the former. Lia's doctors ascribed her seizures to the misfiring of her cerebral neurons; her parents called her illness, qaug dab peg--the spirit catches you and you fall down--and ascribed it to the wandering of her soul. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Apr 1, 2011
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Pages
162
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ISBN
9781429929424
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Books & Reading
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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"Young has always stood out for his sharp humor, boundless poetic energy, and sheer readability. If adventurous poetry can sometimes feel like a tenuous tightrope walk, Young's poems feel more like zip lines."—The Boston Globe

"This book reads like a long, breathless thank-you for life's seemingly random jumble of beauty, strangeness, tenderness, and joy."—Los Angeles Times

Fall Higher is a major collection by one of America's most inventive and entertaining writers. In this paperback release, Dean Young's work contends with the challenges of love, wryly cataloging mistakes, deterioration, and broken vows. Young's humor is as sharp as ever, and coupled with a vulnerability that renders Fall Higher his most intimate collection to date.

"The True Apology Takes Years"

The true apology takes years.
Terrible dry eyes!
The tree rings grow closer and closer together
but the nail is swallowed.
Great heaps of rubble are moved up and down the shore.
Finally a dance is performed to complete the forgiveness,
stamping out small fires,
the whole palladium decorated with thistles
like the last twenty pages of a Victorian novel.
Now that your hunger is gone you're welcome to the banquet . . .

Dean Young has published twelve books of poetry, including finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and Griffin Award. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA, as well as an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches at the University of Texas and lives in Austin, Texas.


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