02 November 2016

A book for the bibliophile

In 1998 Anne Fadiman published Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader.  The book is a compilation of essays she authored for Civilization, the magazine of the Library of Congress, and each of the eighteen chapters is an unabashed paean to the written word. There are chapters on marrying libraries, the joy of unusual words (see below), the composition of personal libraries, annotating and writing in books, dedicatory inscriptions in books, reading in unusual or famous places, reflexive proofreading of the everyday world, and plagiarism.

I won't undertake a proper review - just a couple excerpts:
“My daughter is seven, and some of the other second-grade parents complain that their children don't read for pleasure. When I visit their homes, the children's rooms are crammed with expensive books, but the parent's rooms are empty. Those children do not see their parents reading, as I did every day of my childhood. By contrast, when I walk into an apartment with books on the shelves, books on the bedside tables, books on the floor, and books on the toilet tank, then I know what I would see if I opened the door that says 'PRIVATE--GROWNUPS KEEP OUT': a child sprawled on the bed, reading.”

Words from the chapter "The Joy of Sesquipedalians" - monophysite, mephitic, calineries, diapason, grimoire, adapertile, retromingent, perllan, cupellation, adytum, sepoy, subadar, paludal, apozeical, camorra, ithyphallic, alcalde, aspergill, agathodemon, kakodemon, goetic, opopanax.
Other new words for me: interlarding, soidisant, bibliolatrous, nonesuch, postulant slomped, villanelle, bibliopegic, bibliobibacity, and enchiridion.


  1. One of the great benefits of reading electronically is that you can instantly get the definition of any word.

  2. Curious about the word 'bibliobibacity" (in last sentence) - can't find in either Merriam-Webster or the OED. Any ideas?
    (brag: daughter was perfect speller in last night's area Spell Bowl competition)

    1. According to Ms. Fadiman, it was used in a chapter title in one of the books she cites. But I haven't found a definition or etymology, so it could have been a neologism on that author's part, because "bibacity" is an addiction to drink, so he/she may have added the "biblio" as a sort of portmanteau word to mean addiction to books.

    2. p.s. - if you want to tease your daughter, ask her to spell "incorrect," and when she does tell her "that's incorrect."

      Then tell her the word "gullible" is not in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and see if she goes to look it up...

  3. This book appears the sort of read I'd enjoy. I'm intrigued and have added this site to my favorites.


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