Essays of E.B. White

by E. B. White

Hardcover, 1977

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Harper & Row, 1977.

Description

Thirty-one of E.B. White's essays grouped under such headings as "The Farm," "The Planet," "Memories," and "Books, Men, and Writing."

User reviews

LibraryThing member dodger
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.
LibraryThing member bell7
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.
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LibraryThing member co_coyote
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member TadAD
Thoughtful, amusing, understated. This is a delightful read, whether in a large gulp or in small bites at your leisure.
LibraryThing member Harrietthespy
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.
LibraryThing member victoriahallerman
All-time favorite; for anyone who values style.
LibraryThing member abide01
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.
LibraryThing member ElenaDanielson
E.B. White's essays are enduring classics, part of a rather small number of books that are enjoyable to re-read years later. His famous style does begin to seem stodgy and even a bit smug in our world, but his love of nature and ability to find humor in small details is still endearing. What struck me this time around, reading for a January 2016 book group, is his gentle approach to raging political problems of his time, the 1950s. On racism, he describes in leisurely style a vacation in Jim Crow Florida, and the astonishment of his Finnish cook that she shouldn't sit in the back of the bus. His deep identification with nature and animals implies a criticism of nuclear energy policies that threaten the environment. His appreciation of good writing brings along an implied criticism of the McCarthy era attacks on Hollywood screen writers he admires like Ring Lardner. After seeing the Trumbo film, this suddenly became much more obvious to me. Such a calm observational style could definitely improve our current political discourse if the public had the patience to think things through with care. These political implications are anything but stodgy and smug. Even his famous essay on racoons seemed to me this time like a very indirect commentary on motherhood in general. It's just easier to think about when transposed onto cute critters rather than real people. Here's a book that's definitely worth a another look.… (more)
LibraryThing member figre
Time has not been kind to these essays. That isn't to say that the subjects are out of date (they aren't, or at least, the essays can be read and enjoyed as a part of their time) nor that the themes are not relevant. Nor is it to say that they are not well written. White's craftsmanship as a writer is highly visible, and every aspiring writer would do well to look at the way sentences are constructed, images are built, and words are chosen (to name just a few of the lessons) in order to learn about the craft.

No, the reason time has not been kind is that the actual style of writing feels old. And I think it is a testament to White's skill that these pieces have not fallen over with the ricketiness of age. But styles do change, and these essays are starting to show some of the dust.

That is not to say this collection should be avoided (even beyond my previous admonishment for all writers to read them.) While some pieces in particular do not hold up well, others are still quite enjoyable. Foremost among these is "The Years of Wonder" – a reminiscence of White's voyage to the Bering Strait while still a teenager.

Part of why this piece succeeds (while the others have slowed down with age) is that it brings a strong narrative to the essay. And, I guess that is why I felt the others didn't hold up as well. Reminiscences of moments in life (a big part of what White is writing about) are so "of the moment" that subsequent moments will leave the writing in the dust. "The Years of Wonder" is not about a moment; it is about the transition of an individual. And the more a piece is about the effect on people rather than what it is that affected the person, the better time has treated that particular essay.

There are certain people who will enjoy these essays. Primary among them will be the students – the ones who want to learn how to write. But, in spite of a number of essays that no longer resonate, there is content here that will be enjoyable to the individual that just calls him or herself a "reader".
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LibraryThing member JBD1
E.B. White is one of those authors who I just can't help but find interesting, for one reason or another. Sometimes his writing just hits the spot; sometimes he brings me a good solid belly-laugh like very few writers can; sometimes he makes me cry. The essays collected here had all of those effects, at various points.

Whether he's writing about packing an apartment ("Good-bye to Forty-Eighth Street"), watching a raccoon descend a tree ("Coon Tree"), the lives and deaths of geese ("The Geese) or about the state of the political world ("Bedfellows," "Sootfall and Fallout," "Unity), White's prose just crackles with an energy and a brilliance that few writers can command. At times he uses his powers to amuse, at others to provoke, at still others, it seems, simply to muse.

A book to enjoy at leisure, so that you can savor each well-chosen word and turn of phrase.
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LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
A friend recommended this essay collection to me after seeing a picture I had posted of a raccoon in a hollow tree on our property. The particular essay she had in mind is titled Coon Tree . Luckily I happened to find this edition (an used copy) just a few days later, on spring break up in Boston and the Harvard Bookstore.

E.B. White is probably best known for authoring Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little , so it's not surprising that his observations of animal life, such as raccoons in the aforementioned essay or geese in The Geese are quite engaging and also somewhat anthromorphic.

His essays here cover different topics, and are organized in different categories: "The Farm", "The Planet", "The City", "Florida", "Memories", "Diversions and Obsessions", and "Books, Men, and Writing".

While some of White's essays may seem a bit dated, they are still contemporary accounts of events that were relevant at the time he wrote them, which is something worth considering. His observations are keen. Here are some of my favorites:

"There are two sides to a raccoon -- the arboreal and the terrestrial. When a female coon is in the tree, caring for young, she is one thing. When she descends and steps off onto solid earth to prowl and hunt, she is quite another. In the tree she seems dainty and charming; the circles under her eyes make her look slightly dissipated and deserving of sympathy. The moment she hits the ground, all this changes; she seems predatory, sinister, and as close to evil as anything in Nature (which contains no evil can be. If I were an Indian naming animals, I would call the raccoon He Who Has the Perpetual Hangover" (p. 35-36, Coon Tree).

"On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city's walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky (p. 118, Here is New York)".

"There is also a woodchuck here, living forty feet away under the wharf. When the wind is right, he can smell my house; and when the wind is contrary, I can smell his. We both use the wharf for sunning, taking turns, each adjusting his schedule to the other's convenience. Thoreau once ate a woodchuck. I think he felt he owed it to his readers, and that it was little enough, considering the indignities they were suffering at his hands and the dressing-down they were taking. (Parts of Walden are pure scold.) Or perhaps he ate the woodchuck because he believed every man should acquire strict business habits, and the woodchuck was destroying his market beans. I do not know (p. 237-238, A Slight Sound at Evening -- this is an essay discussing Thoreau).

I definitely will seek out E.B. White's other essay collections.
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LibraryThing member stpnwlf
Very enjoyable and interesting essays.

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