Wednesday, August 15, 2012
At Large and At Small
On a bookshelf, next to Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris, is her other book of essays At Large and At Small. I should have included both of them as #7 in my List of 10 (List of 10). I started this second book this morning.
Ex Libris is all about bookish things. In At Large and At Small Ms. Fadiman takes a look at the whole world: Butterflies, ice cream, coffee, mail...
There is a large dose of bookishness in them as well. For example, in the first essay, "Collecting Nature", the reader learns that Vladimir Nabokov was a lifelong butterfly chaser and discovered several new species.
As usual, the reader learns some things about Ms. Fadiman as well. For instance, as children, not only did she and her brother chase, capture, and classify butterflies, they also founded The Serendipity Museum of Nature in a spare room in their house in Los Angeles. Here the two created displays of the skin of a garter snake, whale baleen, bird's eggs and nests, and scraps of fur - tiger, mink, rabbit - from the local furrier.
But that is not all. She writes: "Blowfish dangled from the ceiling on strands of dental floss."
Eventually, the pickled and preserved contents of the museum were sold or tossed when she went away to college. She kept the seashells though.
What a wondrous childhood she had and how glad I am that she writes to share it with me.