Never Do That to a Book By Anne Fadiman

The intention of this piece is to compare the two different types of book owners, courtly lovers and carnal lovers. It talks about how they treat their books and the reasoning behind their reading habits. Fadiman defines both of the book owners and gives examples of how they treat their books and what they would never do to a book.

The arrangement of this piece starts off with a strong anecdote from Fadiman’s past. The anecdote hints at the fact that there are two different kinds of book owners and how they feel a book should be treated. The anecdote also addresses the point that courtly and carnal lovers do not agree on how a book should be treated. Fadiman then moves on to define each of the different book owners, courtly lovers and carnal lovers. After it gives examples of the habits of each of the book owners and how they normal treat a book as they’re reading it. She also gives examples of things a courtly and carnal book lover would never do to a book. Throughout the essay, Fadiman uses personal stories from her life to make the piece more relatable. She talks about how she treats books and then also talks about her family members and how each of them feel a book should be treated.

Fadiman brings up several different important historical figures or well known book lovers to add logos to her piece. One of her paragraphs is solely dedicated to giving examples of important people and how they would react to certain treatments of books or how they would treat their own books. Fadiman  uses Thomas Jefferson as an example of a carnal lover when she says, “… Thomas Jefferson, who chopped up a priceless 1572 first edition of Plutarch’s works in Greek in order to interleave its pages with an English translation?” (296) She uses these examples to bolster her point that courtly and carnal lovers each have a very particular opinion on how their books should be treated. Using Thomas Jefferson shows the audience that even important historical figure fall into one of these categories.

The intended audience for this essay is for other book enthusiasts. The essay doesn’t have a very academic tone, but it is definitely for people who often read books. Fadiman  makes it very clear in her essay that she is a carnal lover and a huge admirer of books. The audience is also expected to be as into reading, or at least enough to be one of the two different types of book owners. The audience is suppose to relate to the essay and to connect to either being a courtly or carnal lover.  The essay is also suppose to humor the audience because they could recall their own reading habits or people in their  lives who are either of these book owners.

— Megan Ross

My favorite part of this essay was the intro. I love how Fadiman starts off by immediately drawing readers in with a narrative from her past. With no introduction she begins, “When I was eleven and my brother was thirteen, our parents took us to Europe.” By immediately catching the reader’s’ curiosity, Fadiman creates a stronger connection between the readers and the point of her essay. Through her personal example readers immediately relate to her.  It immediately begins the contrast between the two types of people in the story, those who treat books like temples and those who “destroy” books by writing in them.

A genius aspect of this essay was Fadiman’s use of personification. Throughout the essay she personifies books. She does this by describing the different types of love between readers and their books. The courtly lovers treat their books with caution, careful not to damage any precious word. In this section Fadiman gives books feelings, explaining why courtly lovers are so cautious not to hurt them. This relationship personifies and exaggerates the fragile state these people believe books are in. Carnal lovers literally “love their books to pieces”. Fadiman gives books human-like qualities such as feelings and body parts. This personification helps readers better understand the comparison between the two relationships.
Fadiman’s arrangement in this essay provide readers with a clear and distinct argument. She opens the essay with a personal narrative introducing readers to the two types of book lovers. She then provides thorough examples of each type of people. She starts with courtly lovers, providing three examples followed by a further detailed instance of how courtly lovers leave their bookmarks. By focusing lastly on something rather small, readers are left fully understanding just how uptight courtly lovers are when it comes to their books. Fadiman then focuses on carnal lovers. She inserts herself into this category. By doing this she has ethos on this topic simply because she has lived it. Her last story ends on a lighter note which leaves a lasting impression on readers. Fadiman’s arrangement in Never Do that to a Book creates a memorable and easy to understand argument for readers.

—Caroline Steinmetz

Ethos: Throughout this essay, Fadiman displays a playful and lighthearted tone, but she develops a credible argument between courtly and carnal book lovers by showing the reader the amount of experience she has in this topic. The anecdote she uses at the beginning of the essay describes the first time she was made aware of the differences in how people treat books. She states that at the time of this encounter, she was eleven years old. As the essay continues, Fadiman states, “During the next thirty years I came to realize that just as there is more than one way to love a person, so is there more than one way to love a book” (Fadiman 296). By stating that for over thirty years she took note of how those around her treated the books they read, Fadiman gains ethos. As the reader, we are shown that she is intrigued by this human behavior and that she has analyzed both ways one can love a book. The reader understands that she has been studying these habits for many years, which allows the reader to trust the information she is presenting.

Pathos: Fadiman uses a wide variety of examples throughout her essay to help strengthen her argument. These examples describe her own personal habits when reading books, and stories of her friends and family. The personal examples she uses, creates strength in the appeal of pathos because by learning about her individual habits, she invokes a commonality between herself and the reader. One particular example she uses appeals to the reader’s emotion because she touches on the potential memories that could be created by being a carnal book lover. Fadiman states, “And thus, even though I own a clear plastic cookbook holder, I never use it. What a pleasure it will be, thirty years hence, to open The Joy of Cooking to page 581 and behold part of the actual egg yolk that my daughter glopped into her very first batch of blueberry muffins at age twenty-two months!” (Fadiman 299) By using practical examples of books that everyone uses sometime in their life, such as a cookbook, the reader is able to think about how they have treated this particular book, and then categorize themselves based on this behavior. The diversity and assortment among Fadiman’s examples allows everyone to categorize themselves within the two ways one can love a book.

Invention: “Just think what courtly lovers miss by believing that the only thing they are permitted to do with books is read them! What do they use for shims, doorstops, glueing weights, and rug-flatteners?” (Fadiman 298) This is one of my favorite quotes from the essay because it not only shows Fadiman’s sarcastic and humorous tone, but it also persuades the reader towards being a carnal book lover because of the practical uses a book can have. By integrating a rhetorical question into this claim, Fadiman wants to point out the valuable functions books can have when they are treated with carnal love.

–Sarah Biehl


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