The Story of Charlotte's Web: E. B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classicby Michael Sims
While composing what would become his most enduring and popular book, E. B. White obeyed that oft-repeated maxim: "Write what you know." Helpless pigs, silly geese, clever spiders, greedy ratsWhite knew all of these characters in the barns and stables where he spent his favorite hours as a child and adult. Painfully shy, "this boy," White once wrote of… See more details below
While composing what would become his most enduring and popular book, E. B. White obeyed that oft-repeated maxim: "Write what you know." Helpless pigs, silly geese, clever spiders, greedy ratsWhite knew all of these characters in the barns and stables where he spent his favorite hours as a child and adult. Painfully shy, "this boy," White once wrote of himself, "felt for animals a kinship he never felt for people." It's all the more impressive, therefore, how many people have felt a kinship with E. B. White.
Michael Sims chronicles White's animal-rich childhood, his writing about urban nature for the New Yorker, his scientific research into how spiders spin webs and lay eggs, his friendship with his legendary editor, Ursula Nordstrom, the composition and publication of his masterpiece, and his ongoing quest to recapture an enchanted childhood.
“Immensely charming” Boston Globe
“A fine stylist, Mr. Sims portrays these scenes with a beauty and an economy of language that would make the co-author of The Elements of Style proud.” Wall Street Journal
“Thorough...clear, direct and concise...a lovely and empathetic testament to E.B. White's vision.” The Washington Post
“The Story of Charlotte's Web is a paean to a great work and a window into the uniquely gifted man who created it.” Christian Science Monitor
“Sims offers an affectionate homage to E.B. White” Entertainment Weekly
“An engaging, distilled, highly focused biography of White” Salon
“Built on revealing glimpses” USA Today
“A really lovely book” Science Friday
“Unpacks the appeal of Charlotte's Web” Smithsonian
“Goes back to Zuckerman's farm” Vanity Fair
“A pocket biography” Chicago Sun-Times
“Beautifully written and researched, the book is well worth anyone's time” Monica Edinger, Huffington Post
“An affectionate biography…Packed with the same kind of sensory detail its subject reveled in, this account is an honorable addition to the literature of letters.” Kirkus Reviews
An affectionate biography examines the birth of an American classic.
As the subtitle indicates, Sims (Apollo's Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination, 2007, etc.) concentrates on White's lifelong love of the natural world. He loved the family stable, writes the author, and roamed the undeveloped places in and around Mount Vernon, N.Y., as well as reveling in the rustic beauty of the Belgrade Lakes in Maine, where his family summered. White's reading tastes revolved around the "true life" animal stories of Ernest Thompson Seton and his ilk, and he was also charmed by the antics of Don Marquis' Archy and Mehitabel. White began writing early, first keeping a diary and then joining the child contributors to St. Nicholas, among whom also numbered his future wife, Katharine Sergeant. Sims also traces White'sNew Yorkercareer, touching lightly on high points and drawing on his writings, both public and private, in which he often adopted the voices of animals. The author avoids the often-irritating tendency of literary biographers to foreshadow portentously from these early experiences, allowing readers to draw their own connections. His examination of the genesis and development ofCharlotte's Web—White worked desperately to nurse an ill pig back to health, knowing that if he was successful, he would end up killing it anyway—will thrill lovers of the novel. Sims quotes generously from White's working drafts, which were constantly in revision from the beginning. Descriptions of these pages offer both a fascinating insight into the writing process and crushing refutation of any claim that writing for children is easy.
Packed with the same kind of sensory detail its subject reveled in, this account is an honorable addition to the literature of letters.
- Walker & Company
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Meet the Author
Michael Sims is the author of acclaimed nonfiction books such as Apollo's Fire and Adam's Navel, and the editor of anthologies including The Dead Witness and Dracula's Guest, connoisseurs' collections of Victorian detective and vampire stories, respectively. He lives near Pittsburgh.
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