Friday 7 March 2014

Non-Fiction Mini Reviews: At Large and At Small and Wishful Drinking

 I'm apparently on a bit of a non-fiction kick at the moment. I'm not sure why, but where I generally have huge trouble reading non-fiction quickly (like, it usually drags out for so long that I eventually give up), I've been devouring it in the past few weeks. I have a few more non-fiction titles on their way into the library for me so let's hope it holds out! 

At Large and At Small was my first encounter with Anne Fadiman. To be honest, really I was after Ex Libris or The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down, both of which have been on my wishlist forever, but this was the one that Kent library services had and I'd reached the point where I'd been hearing brilliance about her for so long that I just had to read something and find out whether she lived up to the hype, and oh my goodness she so does. At Large and At Small is a collection of what Fadiman calls 'familiar essays'. It turns out that familiar essays are the kind of essays I like to read, and they range in subject from butterflies, through Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Arctic explorers, to coffee and ice cream. There wasn't an essay in the collection that I didn't enjoy reading. Fadiman's style is just lovely - informative and incredibly well put together without being boring or preachy. Her writing flows beautifully and I may even have to go out and actually purchase her other two books now. This is the kind of book that I'm sad came from the library, because it means I can't keep it. I want to keep it, dammit! 

Just one example of the loveliness of At Large and At Small:
"Now, under the watchful eye of a husband so virtuous that he actually prefers low-fat frozen yogurt, I go through the motions of scooping a modest hemisphere of ice cream into a small bowl, but we both know that during the course of the evening I will simply shuttle to and from the freezer until the entirety of the pint has been transferred from carton to bowl to me."

I do this. This is me, with the exception that my husband is right there with me, pretending he's not going to help eat the entire thing....

The other non-fiction book I've currently finished is Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, which the lovely Nahree sent me as part of the Valentine's Ninja Book Swap. 

I've heard a lot about this book - a lot of people raved about how hilarious it was months/years ago and I was hopeful for it. To be honest, it was a little bit of a let down. Don't get me wrong, I still really enjoyed reading it and it was very interesting, for example how did I have no idea that Debbie Reynolds is Carrie Fisher's mother?? But it didn't make me laugh out loud once. It didn't even really make me snigger. I smiled a few times, but that was it. It was a bit funny, but nowhere near as hilarious as the internet hype monster would have us believe. 

If you're a Star Wars fan it makes very interesting reading though, because the whole way through it there are little hints of her raging bitterness towards George Lucas. I don't get the feeling that she hates the Star Wars films as much as she hates forever being seen as Princess Leia, maybe? Anyway, that side of it was interesting. I didn't really get why it was called Wishful Drinking, though, because aside from the fact of her being an alcoholic and addict in various forms, it's not really about drinking... Anyway! It probably sounds like I hated it and I really didn't. I still want to read her second book, and I'm still pushing this on Rhys the minute he finishes Artemis Fowl. So it was good, but once he's done I think it will be going on ReaditSwapit. Whereas At Large and At Small, if I only owned a copy, would be going straight on my most sacred keeper shelf. 


  1. I did not know about Anne Fadiman, but her books sound so good!

    1. It really really is! You should read it immediately (by which I obviously mean 'after you've read all the books on the longlist for the Whatever it's Called Now Prize) :-p

  2. Oh bloody hell, I just wrote a long comment and Blogger killed it! Let's try again:

    I've read both of these, and Ex Libris. I liked that one best out of the two Fadiman collections, mostly because all the essays were book-related so my pet subject was being thoroughly catered for! What I love about Fadiman is that she manages to seem incredibly well-versed in any given subject, yet puts it across in such a way that it inspires the reader's interest too. Maybe it's the lovely writing that stops it getting too dry...

    I quite liked Wishful Drinking and found some moments quite funny, but it was flimsier than I expected and I only gave it 3 stars in the end. More recently I discovered that it's basically the book version of her one-woman show, which is on YouTube (all as one video - I love that there are so many obscure things on there like that now) and is MUCH better. The delivery is much funnier, the anecdotes and visual stuff all come together much better... I suppose it's the equivalent of watching a sitcom instead of just reading the script. Highly recommended - it's funnier, warmer and less disjointed than the book, and I properly laughed and really enjoyed it!