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At Large and at Small: Confessions of a Literary Hedonist [Paperback]

Anne Fadiman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Nov 2008
Butterflies, ice-cream, writing at night, playing word games...in this witty, intimate and delicious book Anne Fadiman ruminates on her passions, both literary and everyday. From mourning the demise of letter-writing to revealing a monumental crush on Charles Lamb, from Balzac's coffee addiction to making ice-cream from Liquid Nitrogen, she draws us into a world of hedonistic pleasures and literary delights. This is the perfect book for life's ardent obsessives.

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At Large and at Small: Confessions of a Literary Hedonist + Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141033991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141033990
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 11.4 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

To those who have read her work, Anne Fadiman is the object of cultish devotion...full of warmth (The Observer )

I relished Anne Fadiman's At Large and At Small (Spectator, Books of the Year )

About the Author

Anne Fadiman is the Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale. She is the author of Ex Libris and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Award).

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing at its best 4 Jan 2008
By Stromata VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I have admired other work by Anne Fadiman, particularly Ex Libris, and I was certainly not disappointed by this latest offering. In At Large and At Small - Confessions of a Literary Hedonist she writes of such diverse topics as coffee, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, national flags and the trauma of moving home. What she offers is not the ubiquitous `in my opinion.....' pieces but beautifully crafted essays whose breadth and depth are astonishing. I particularly enjoyed the essay entitled `The Unfuzzy Lamb' in which Fadiman writes about the beloved Charles Lamb. Beloved? Well if you didn't feel that way about him before you read that particular piece, you certainly will after as she paints such a sympathetic picture of him.

This little book, just 200 pages and in a small, but very pleasing format, is an absolute gem. As erudite and amusing as a perfect companion.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much in here to interest anyone 21 Jan 2008
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I first came across Anne Fadiman some years ago via her book of reflections on reading, "Ex Libris". I enjoyed that little book more than its size would suggest, and when I read a review of At Large and Small I was intrigued enough to buy a copy. I found that it contains a collection of essays on a wide range of subjects, from the ice-cream to butterfly collecting, from the esssays of Charles Lamb to the dominance of correspondence by email. This is definitely a book for someone who like reading intelligent musings on a miscellany of topics, and although the essays are essentially light and amusing, most readers will learn something interesting along the way.

As I read it, I began to wonder how this differed from a newspaper column, or even an Internet blog. After all, there are countless coloumnists who write reflectively in the Sunday supplements or the weekly magazines, and even more bloggers who put their thoughts down almost daily on anything that comes across their path. In the end, I felt that Anne Fadiman's essays are perhaps written over a longer period and took longer in the gestation, giving them a depth and consistency across the topics which other media writers may not achieve.

Ann Fadiman is of course highly qualified to write such a book, being Writer-In-Residence at Yale University. The books closes with a comprehensive list of academic references and other notes, and suggests that this is rather more than chance ramblings, but a well-researched set of thoughts born out of a long period of reflection.

The books is beautifully produced, and perhaps this is part of its appeal. Its not a book to hurry through, but rather one to make last over several weeks, and return to again and again. Any book-lover would appreciate it on their shelves, and it would make an unusual gift for anyone who likes reading and is prepared to try something a little different.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More confessions please 25 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback
Prior to reading Fadiman's Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, I had not delved much into the personal essay genre. Reading Fadiman has changed that. My wife bought me Ex Libris for our first anniversary, subsequent to which and a couple of weeks after returning home, I looked up Fadiman online to see that At Large and At Small had recently been published. It is most definitely a 'literary gem', as one of the other reviewers comments.

Fadiman deals with sensitive topics gracefully and wittily. In an interview I found with her online, Fadiman commented that writing personal essays requires that you turn up the 'loudness of your voice'. If so, then somehow Fadiman has managed to select the perfect decibel equivalent at which her writings retain intimacy and factualness while they sustain humour and poignancy. Fadiman shows how she, and anyone really, can be simultaneously enamoured of an historic figure, while perturbed by their character, as evidenced by her commentary on Coleridge and Stefansson. Such personal paradoxes tie well into her essay on the culture wars where she laments the polarization of what makes literature worthwhile. She concludes that both literary value and moral lessons engage the reader and promote literature of all kinds and that the dichotomy is false. These and other ideas float tantalizingly on the surfaces of her essays, while anchored suitably by her research and by her breadth of reading.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in Fadiman's previous collection Ex Libris, while telling them to be aware that they are in for a different literary journey: equally as good, but with a more varied landscape of subject matter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The art of essay writing at its finest 19 Aug 2008
By Poroto
Format:Hardcover
This is an adorable little book. It is a book to relish slowly, not devour. I wished it had 500 more pages so I could have devoured it. I learned a lot of trivial yet fascinating facts about other writers, about butterflies and insects in general, about letter-writing and mail, among others. Ann Fadiman writes in a manner that really involves the reader, i.e. she makes you think that your attention to the topic is valuable, through careful selection of words, personal reflection, and poignant revelations of her family life. It's the sort of book that makes you think "I'm so glad I found it and read it". I wish there were more writers like her.
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