Tuesday April 14th, 2009

At Large and At Small by Anne Fadiman

fadiman_coverRecommended by Julie in New York City.
Anne Fadiman, former editor of The American Scholar, reminds us that the “familiar essay” is a genre worthy of readers’ attention—and even devotion. Falling somewhere between the “critical” and the “personal” essay, the familiar essay is “equal measures heart and brain.” (As Fadiman explains in the preface to her latest essay collection, At Large and At Small, the genre’s heyday was the early nineteenth century. “The familiar essayist didn’t speak to the millions,” she writes. He spoke to one reader, as if the two of them were sitting side by side in front of a crackling fire with a long evening of conversation stretching before them.”) How does Fadiman ignite our interest in this endangered genre? By practicing it so beautifully herself.  She writes with characteristic humor and erudition about subjects ranging from coffee and ice cream to the pleasures of letter-writing and being a night owl. You will not regret a single moment in the company of this remarkable writer, whose love for language and life informs and suffuses every one of her charming essays.