Essays of E. B. White

Essays of E. B. White

by E. B White

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060932237
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/12/2006
Series: Harper Perennial Modern Classics Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 80,866
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

E. B. White, the author of such beloved classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, was born in Mount Vernon, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and, five or six years later, joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine, then in its infancy. He died on October 1, 1985, and was survived by his son and three grandchildren.

Mr. White's essays have appeared in Harper's magazine, and some of his other books are: One Man's Meat, The Second Tree from the Corner, Letters of E. B. White, Essays of E. B. White, and Poems and Sketches of E. B. White. He won countless awards, including the 1971 National Medal for Literature and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which commended him for making a "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children."

During his lifetime, many young readers asked Mr. White if his stories were true. In a letter written to be sent to his fans, he answered, "No, they are imaginary tales . . . But real life is only one kind of life—there is also the life of the imagination."

Read an Excerpt

Good-bye to Forty-eighth Street

Turtle Bay, November 12, 1957

For some weeks now I have been engaged in dispersing the contents of this apartment, trying to persuade hundreds of inanimate objects to scatter and leave me alone. It is not a simple matter. I am impressed by the reluctance of one's worldly goods to go out again into the world. During September I kept hoping that some morning, as by magic, all books, pictures, records, chairs, beds, curtains, lamps, china, glass, utensils, keepsakes would drain away from around my feet, like the outgoing tide, leaving me standing silent on a bare beach, But this did not happen. My wife and I diligently sorted and discarded things from day to day, and packed other objects for the movers, but a sixroom apartment holds as much paraphernalia as an aircraft carrier. You can whittle away at it, but to empty the place completely takes real ingenuity and great staying power. On one of the mornings of disposal, a man from a second-hand bookstore visited us, bought several hundred books, and told us of the death of his brother, the word "cancer" exploding in the living room like a time bomb detonated by his grief. Even after he had departed with his heavy load, there seemed to be almost as many books as before, and twice as much sorrow.

Every morning, when I left for work, I would take something in my hand and walk off with it, for deposit in the big municipal wire trash basket at the corner of Third, on the theory that the physical act of disposal was the real key to the problem. My wife, a strategist, knew better and began quietly mobilizing the forces that would eventually put our goods to rout. Aman could walk away for a thousand mornings carrying something with him to the corner and there would still be a home full of stuff. It is not possible to keep abreast of the normal tides of acquisition. A home is like a reservoir equipped with a check valve: the valve permits influx but prevents outflow. Acquisition goes on night and day — smoothly, subtly, imperceptibly. I have no sharp taste for acquiring things, but it is not necessary to desire things in order to acquire them. Goods and chattels seek a man out; they find him even though his guard is up. Books and oddities arrive in the mail. Gifts arrive on anniversaries and fete days. Veterans send ballpoint pens. Banks send memo books. If you happen to be a writer, readers send whatever may be cluttering up their own lives; I had a man once send me a chip of wood that showed the marks of a beaver's teeth. Someone dies, and a little trickle of indestructible keepsakes appears, to swell the flood. This steady influx is not counterbalanced by any comparable outgo. Under ordinary circumstances, the only stuff that leaves a home is paper trash and garbage; everything else stays on and digs in.

Lately we haven't spent our nights in the apartment; we are bivouacked in a hotel and just come here mornings to continue the work. Each of us has a costume. My wife steps into a cotton dress while I shift into midnight-blue tropical pants and bowling shoes. Then we buckle down again to the unending task.

All sorts of special problems arise during the days of disposal. Anyone who is willing to put his mind to it can get rid of a chair, say, but what about a trophy? Trophies are like leeches. The ones made of paper, such as a diploma from a school or a college, can be burned if you have the guts to light the match, but the ones made of bronze not only are indestructible but are almost impossible to throw away, because they usually carry your name, and a man doesn't like to throw away his good name, or even his bad one. Some busybody might find it. People differ in their approach to trophies, of course. In watching Edward R. Murrow's "Person to Person" program on television, I have seen several homes that contained a "trophy room," in which the celebrated pack rat of the house had assembled all his awards, so that they could give out the concentrated aroma of achievement whenever he wished to loiter in such an atmosphere. This is all very well if you enjoy the stale smell of success, but if a man doesn't care for that air he is in a real fix when disposal time comes up. One day a couple of weeks ago, I sat for a while staring moodily at a plaque that had entered my life largely as a result of some company's zest for promotion. It was bronze on walnut, heavy enough to make an anchor for a rowboat, but I didn't need a rowboat anchor, and this thing had my name on it. By deft work with a screwdriver, I finally succeeded in prying the nameplate off; I pocketed this, and carried the mutilated remains to the corner, where the wire basket waited. The work exhausted me more than did the labor for which the award was presented.

Another day, I found myself on a sofa between the chip of wood gnawed by the beaver and an honorary hood I had once worn in an academic procession. What I really needed at the moment was the beaver himself, to eat the hood. I shall never wear the hood again, but I have too weak a character to throw it away, and I do not doubt that it will tag along with me to the end of my days, not keeping me either warm or happy but occupying a bit of my attic space.

Right in the middle of the dispersal, while the mournful rooms were still loaded with loot, I had a wonderful idea: we would shut the apartment, leave everything to soak for a while, and go to the Fryeburg Fair, in Maine, where we could sit under a tent at a cattle auction and watch somebody else trying to dispose of something. A fair, of course, is a dangerous spot if a man is hoping to avoid acquisition, and the truth is I came close to acquiring a very pretty whiteface heifer, safe in calf-which would...

Table of Contents

FOREWORD ix(4)
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xiii
I THE FARM
3(84)
GOOD-BYE TO FORTY-EIGHTH STREET
3(5)
HOME-COMING
8(8)
A REPORT IN SPRING
16(4)
DEATH OF A PIG
20(10)
THE EYE OF EDNA
30(11)
COON TREE
41(15)
A REPORT IN JANUARY
56(9)
THE WINTER OF THE GREAT SNOWS
65(8)
RIPOSTE
73(3)
THE GEESE
76(11)
II THE PLANET
87(52)
LETTER FROM THE EAST
87(12)
BEDFELLOWS
99(13)
SOOTFALL AND FALLOUT
112(13)
UNITY
125(14)
III THE CITY
139(32)
THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
139(9)
HERE IS NEW YORK
148(23)
IV FLORIDA
171(24)
ON A FLORIDA KEY
171(7)
THE RING OF TIME
178(10)
WHAT DO OUR HEARTS TREASURE?
188(7)
V MEMORIES
195(62)
AFTERNOON OF AN AMERICAN BOY
195(7)
FAREWELL, MY LOVELY!
202(8)
THE YEARS OF WONDER
210(36)
ONCE MORE TO THE LAKE
246(11)
VI DIVERSIONS AND OBSESSIONS
257(24)
THE SEA AND THE WIND THAT BLOWS
257(4)
THE RAILROAD
261(20)
VII BOOKS, MEN, AND WRITING
281(68)
THE ST. NICHOLAS LEAGUE
281(11)
A SLIGHT SOUND AT EVENING
292(11)
SOME REMARKS ON HUMOR
303(9)
DON MARQUIS
312(7)
WILL STRUNK
319(8)
MR. FORBUSH'S FRIENDS
327(22)
About E. B. White 349

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Essays of E. B. White 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you can only own one book by esteemed author and essayist E.B. White, The Essays of E.B. White should be the one. This book represents a cross-section of White's work in the personal essay, a genre that received little attention in the twentieth century. With classic selections like Here is New York (which has taken on new relevance in light of the events of September 11th), Once More to the Lake, and What Do Our Hearts Treasure?, The Essays of E.B. White is a fine example of White's understated and witty style.
stpnwlf on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Very enjoyable and interesting essays.
abide01 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Loved it. This is a book of essays. If you are only familiar with his children books, this will be a great change of pace for you. Very descriptive writing.
bell7 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This collection of thirty-one essays by E.B. White is as delightful as it is varied. The essays are arranged by subject - the farm, the city, and memories, to name a few - but even within these subjects, the collection showcases the breadth of White's thoughts and interests. In one, he discusses "The Death of a Pig," a short but powerful piece that gave me a glimpse of the man who would save the pig in Charlotte's Web. In another, he wrestles with the troubles of hydrogen bomb testing and disarmament, never giving a definite Answer, but provoking thought in himself and his reader.I took several weeks to read these essays, not out of any lack of enjoyment but because of the need to savor each and pause between them. I've come to the conclusion that collections like this need to be owned rather than borrowed so that I can take my time and muse over each one instead of trying to hurry through and evaluate the book as a whole. I loved White's sense of humor, which permeates every essay and includes a few good one liners about politics, "progress," and even himself. In the foreword, 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." Though I can't say much about general interest, I can say that this collection was to my interest, and I would love to own this collection to dip into whenever I like.
co_coyote on LibraryThing 5 months ago
One of the older books in my library, but still a favorite to take out on rainy days and re-read. I bought this hardback for $6.99 a lot of years ago, and this is one of a handful of books that have made moves with me across the country a time or two. I've sold books at a garage sale before, but you won't ever find this one there.
Harrietthespy on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I think most readers only think of White as the author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. These essays are quite funny and give a good look into his life outside of writing.
dodger on LibraryThing 6 months ago
The Essays of E.B. White are quite simply some of the most endearing words ever captured on paper. White¿s genial, conversational tone is inviting throughout, and he possesses an unmatched talent for storytelling. He is quite simply a master at turning seemingly mundane events into vibrant stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago