Monday, April 14, 2008

Remember the familiar essay?

Probably not. In short, familiar essays are somewhere between the personal and the critical essay. According to Anne Fadiman, in an interview from All Things Considered, the familiar essay is "autobiographical, but also about the world". She also says, in an interview on, that "one of its hallmarks of that it is about the author, so it is a subset of the personal essay, but it is also about a subject". Not that anyone's asked me, but this is my blog so you get my opinion, to me, the familiar essay is an essay that is indeed of a personal nature but is ultimately about something bigger and more relatable to everybody. I just read that last paragraph, can you say redundant?
You will notice about that I only quoted one person in regards to the familiar essay and I didn't mention Charles Lamb once, which is terribly remiss of me but there's a reason for it. I promise. That reason is that I think Anne Fadiman is a genius. Charles Lamb is long dead and if you don't have a literary head or a desire to slog through the muck of nineteenth century prose you probably won't get to much out of it. If, however you read Anne Fadiman's essay on Mr. Lamb you may well get as sucked in as I have been. Her writing can make even the most long dead person seem to appear in your living room and sit down for tea (don't worry, only in your imagination, not like a ghost) and exercises your brain by using words you've never even imagined. I truly fell in love with her when I had to run for the dictionary while reading her essay on ice cream. Yes, ice cream. I'm a sucker for a woman who requires a dictionary...

* You can get Anne Fadiman's books on or amazon. Or just do a search for her and read some of her interviews, they are fascinating and she is a delight. (I've never met her, but I imagine she is a delight from the interviews.)


Krøllebølle said...

Hmm, interesting. Must admit I've never heard of Anne Fadiman before, but I'm all up for encountering new things, so I'll definately look her up and read some of her stuff.

queenofhollywood said...

Interesting. I've never heard about this writer before.

Well, the truth is, I must admit that since a long time ago I don't read a book.

Yeah, I know, that's so bad!!

It's cool, because reading your blog I'm discovering new and interesting things and stuff. But at the same time, I realize that I still have to learn a lot!

TONI said...

Woot!..Another interesting 'tip'..So, Anne Fadiman, huh?..Okay, I'm geared for some 'knowledge boot-camp', especially in regards to writing, composing and further escalating my 'amateur-ish level' of constructing a 'decent' sentence..

Thanks for sharing, gal.

Stay well and cool.


Amaranth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amaranth said...

trying to get my hands on an audio copy of the books you mention because they are not available where I live. Oh well, I'll keep trying.I know it sounds crazy but having a book mailed is virtually impossible cause most things get lost in the mail to Pakistan,where I live.Its rather funny.I read up on Hoodtown,which sounded really interesting.

anobscureobject said...

"I'm a sucker for a woman who requires a dictionary..."

haha me too. i love it when writers use such intelligent words that you have to look in a dictionary (i.e. its why pablo neruda is my fave poet of all time) and i hate when i realize i dont have a one on me.

"I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything." -anonymous

Wanda said...

It's really wonderful the way share with us what your moved by and passionate about. I haven't read anything by Anne Fadiham, but I'm definately going to check her out. My reading over the past two years have been nothing but True Crime.

Thank you,