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

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

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Book Description

1 Nov 2007

In At Large and At Small, Anne Fadiman returns to one of her favourite genres, the familiar essay – a beloved and hallowed literary tradition recognized for both its intellectual breadth and its miniaturist focus on everyday experiences. With her wonderful combination of wit and erudition, Fadiman draws us into twelve of her personal obsessions: from her slightly sinister childhood enthusiasm for catching butterflies to her monumental crush on Charles Lamb, from her wistfulness for the days of letter-writing to the challenges and rewards of moving from the city to the country.

Many of these essays were composed ‘under the influence’ of the subject at hand. Fadiman divulges her passion for Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip and her brother’s homemade Liquid Nitrogen Kahlúa Coffee (recipe included); she sustains a terrific caffeine buzz while recounting Balzac’s coffee addiction; and she stays up till dawn to write about being a night owl, examining the rhythms of our circadian clocks and sharing such insomnia cures as her father’s nocturnal word games and Lewis Carroll’s mathematical puzzles. This is a perfect book for life’s passionate obsessives.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (1 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846140439
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846140433
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 13.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 657,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Praise for Ex Libris

'Witty, enchanting and supremely well written' Robert McCrum, Observer

'Ex Libris will provide enjoyable moments of recognition for all book obsessives' Alain de Botton

'A perfect book for anyone who is passionate about books' Cormac Kinsella, Irish Times

'In literary reflections that play and delight, charm and enlighten, the love of books takes on unexpected configurations' Cynthia Ozick

About the Author

Anne Fadiman is the Francis Writer in Residence at Yale. Her first book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, won the US National Book Critics' Circle Award for Non-Fiction. She is also the author of two essay collections, Ex Libris and At Large and At Small. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Life, Esquire, the Washington Post and The New York Times. She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and two children.

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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
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
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 The art of essay writing at its finest 19 Aug 2008
By Poroto
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Warm Writing From A Lovely Writer 2 Jan 2008
By Particular Press VINE VOICE
Anne Fadiman's earlier volume, Ex Libris, is one of my favourite books - a slim volume about the author's passion for books, book collecting and so on. It's wonderfully written and Fadiman's enthusiasm for her subject comes across without straying in to the realm of geeky obsession. I'm happy to report that At Large and at Small is more of the same - concise, yet authoritative essays, on an array of interesting subjects that are presented to the reader in a familiar and warm manner. As with most collections, some essays are stronger than others - 'Night Owl' and the one on Coffee both stand out - but they all contain something that will stir the mind. The essays are easily digested, and you do get the sense that you are enjoying a conversation with a very learned friend.
Highly recommended to everyone who enjoyed Ex Libris - and to anyone who can recognise and enjoy great writing.
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