Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Essays of E.B. White

by E.B. White
New York : Perennial Classics, 1999.

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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