E. B. White Essays

December 10, 2009 @ 7:25 am | Filed under:

Pulling this up from the comments of yesterday’s post—a question I keep meaning to ask here:

As for White, this reminds me I wanted to put one of his essay collections on my birthday/Christmas wish list. Any favorites, anyone? Becky of Farm School, are you reading blogs these days? I’m guessing you’ll have an opinion on this topic. 😉

Essays of E. B. White? (Perennial Classics paperback.)

One Man’s Meat?

Writings from the New Yorker?

If you had to pick just one.

Updated: just found a 1977 New York Times review of Essays:

They’ve brought out “Essays of E. B. White” as a companion volume to his recently published “Letters.” “To assemble these essays,” writes the author in his foreword, “I have rifled my other books and have added a number of pieces that are appearing for the first time between covers.” This means that a reviewer gets to read or re-read “Farewell to Model T” and “Here is New York,” which came out as little books in 1936 and 1949, respectively; all but three chapters of “One Man’s Meat” (1944); selections from “The Second Tree from the Corner” (1954) and “The Points of My Compass” (1962); the introductions to “A Subtreasury of American Humor,” Don Marquis’s “Lives and Times of archy and mehitabel,” and “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr.; as well as several previously uncollected pieces that have appeared in magazines and newspapers along the way. They call the reviewing business work, but in this particular case it is pure pleasure.

So that seems a good bet, eh?

More from that review:

But then E. B. White will always be coming back into style. That’s because, as he himself observes of Thoreau, he writes sentences that resist the destructiveness of time. Besides, he’s an essayist’s essayist. With his relaxed serendipitous technique of seeming to stumble on his subject by way of the back door, he lends you confidence that you don’t really have to know much about a thing to write about it intelligently; you need only possess the skill to write, along with a lot of sanity. Thus, if you’ve got the hang of it, you can arrive at the subject of disarmament by way of Mary Martin’s furniture, or at the prospects of American democracy by the route of a dachshund named Fred.

Of course, it’s only an illusion that Mr. White gets by alone on skill and sanity. He happens to know a great deal about a lot of things–about birds and boats and literature, and, best of all, about how silly it would be to worry about the strictures against anthropomorphism and the pathetic fallacy that children’s-book librarians and French new-wave novelists tried to impress upon us in the 60’s.

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4 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Su says:

    Not “Writings from the New Yorker.” If I recall correctly, it’s a posthumous collection of things that weren’t collected into books while he was alive, and reading it, I understood why! Nobody writes their best stuff all the time, and why read somebody’s second-tier work and be disappointed when they have so much really good stuff?

    One Man’s Meat is a good collection, but that review you found suggests Essays might be a better choice.

  2. Yvonne says:

    No, not Writings from the New Yorker although there are a few gems in there. I love The Points of my Compass, but I think it is out of print.

    I checked out Essays of E. B. White from the library and kept it for a very long time–twice–so I’d go with that one. I really, really want the HC but I really really don’t want to pay $25 so I keep waiting. Watch out for B&N, they teased me with a HC copy for $14, but it was softcover when it arrived–twice–so they gave me a refund and an apology.

    I read White weekly, sometimes daily–he is that wonderful.

  3. Becky says:

    Thanks for thinking of me, Lissa. No, not much time for blog reading at the moment, since I’m in NYC at the moment with my parents looking helping with a family emergency — but one of your fans/my friends sent me an email to let me know about the mention : ).

    Listen to those steering you clear from “Writings from The NYer”. I’m not much help because I have all of my parents first editions of Essays, Second Tree, Compass, One Man’s Meat, etc. I would also recommend secondhand editions of the hardcover versions of his books too; they stand up well to repeated readings. Plus there’s that satisfying heft business.

    I’d also suggest his “Letters” book, since most of those are small essays. Though they will make you weep for the lost-art of letter-writing.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, and a happy and healthy New Year!


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