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At Large and At Small

Anne Fadiman's wee book of musings, At Large and At Small, is cozy and idiosyncratic. These are "familiar essays", as she explains in her preface, like those Charles Lamb and William Hazlitt penned two centuries ago:

... The familiar essayist didn't speak to the millions; he spoke to one reader, as if the two of them were sitting side by side in front of a crackling fire with their cravats loosened, their favorite stimulants at hand, and a long evening of conversation stretching before them. His viewpoint was subjective, his frame of reference concrete, his style digressive, his eccentricities conspicuous, and his laughter usually at his own expense. And Though he wrote about himself, he also wrote about a subject, something with which he was so familiar, and about which he was so enthusiastic, that his words were suffused with a lover's intimacy. ...

So Fadiman talks about her passion as a child for collecting insects, her love of ice cream, her tendency to stay up late and work through the night, the joy of sending and receiving letters, and so forth. In telling of her family's move out of New York City, she delicately introduces a delicate-naughty word:

... If we'd been selling the loft instead of just renting it, we might have been tempted to hire a fluffer. (Fluffer is a term borrowed from pornographic filmmaking; he or she gets the male star ready for the camera.) In the housing market, the fluffer—also known as a stager—introduces a temporary state of real-estate tumescence by removing much of what the client owns and replacing it, from a private warehouse of props, with new furniture, carpets, plants, paintings, towels, sheets, shower curtains, throw pillows, lamp shades, ice buckets (to hold champagne next to the Jacuzzi), breakfast trays (to hold tea and the Sunday Times), and Scrabble sets (to spell out beautiful home). One fluffer ordered his client to remove a Georgia O'Keefe painting from the wall and hide it under the bed. The colors were wrong.

Fadiman's book offers many such delightful moments, clever and thoughtful. The point? Just the journey, not the destination. I fancy that this ^zhurnal sporadically offers something similar: amusing anecdotes, plus an occasional item worth remembering or thinking about. Or maybe just bits of my mind ...

^z - 2008-12-10