Thursday, September 20, 2007

Essays and Old Friends

While E.B. White is probably best known for Charlotte's Web and The Elements of Style, I have fallen in love with his essays and find myself returning to them again and again. It's like visiting an old friend.

In the Foreword of Essays of E.B. White he writes:

"The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest." [Much like a blogger.] "...Each new excursion of the essayist, each new 'attempt,' differs from the last and takes him into new country. This delights him. Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays."

White's quiet humor and keen observations frequently amaze me. He wrote for The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine, published a stack of books, and won an impressive list of awards, including the National Medal for Literature.

His citation for the Gold Medal for Essays and Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters says this: "...When he writes of large subjects he does not make them larger and windier than they are, and when he writes of small things they are never insignificant."

When I grow up, I want to be E.B. White.


Angela said...

Very nice..I haven't thought of EB White in a long time. Thanks for bringing such a talented writer to the spotlight again.I needed some porch swing reading with which to reflect, he's perfect for that:)
BTW-I love that pic of the week!

Helena said...

Cool. He does have a way with words. Somewhere recently I saw a quote attributed to Elwyn Brooks White and it took me a minute to recognize the name. I wonder if his friends called him E.B.?

Mary Witzl said...

Years ago, someone told me that E. B. White wrote Charlotte's Web as a dare: at a dinner party, a friend who wrote children's books had made the comment that kids' books were tough to write and White, an essayist, had said 'Oh come on, they can't be that hard to write' -- or something similarly awful -- and his friends dared him to give it a go. He did, and the result was Charlotte's Web.

Part of me really doesn't want to believe that story. Can you imagine how his friends felt?

Chris said...


Wow, I hope it's not true, but if it is then I hope White gained the proper respect for children's literature by the time he was done! I'll have to do some digging and see what I can find.

That being said, I actually enjoy his essays more than his children's books. And I'm a kid lit fanatic. Weird, huh?

Thanks for the comments, everyone! :)