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Essays of E. B. White (Perennial Classics)…

Essays of E. B. White (Perennial Classics) (original 1977; edition 1999)

by E. B. White

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1,048178,036 (4.34)30
Title:Essays of E. B. White (Perennial Classics)
Authors:E. B. White
Info:Harper Perennial Modern Classics (1999), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library, To read

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Essays of E.B. White by E.B. White (1977)



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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. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Apr 17, 2016 |
This is a widely diverse collection of essays. The sections include The Farm, The Planet, The City, Florida, Memories, Diversions and Obsessions, and Books, Men, and Writing. Some are funny, some are nostalgic, and some are just downright boring. While a few of the essays would have gotten five stars on their own, a few others would have gotten one or two stars, and most would have been somewhere in between, so I averaged it out to three stars for the collection as a whole.

Some of my favorites include “Farewell, My Lovely!” about the first Model-T and it’s idiosyncrasies; “The Years of Wonder,” about White’s month and a half aboard a cruise ship in Alaska; and “The St. Nicholas League,” about a magazine that published art and writing by children. One of my least favorites is “Mr. Forbush’s Friends,” a random collection of bird facts from Forbush’s book.

When I read my first collection of White’s essays (entitled One Man’s Meat), I was totally enchanted. I haven’t felt the same about the other two of his collections that I’ve read. There were definitely moments of enchantment, but I was expecting more. For anyone who is interested, I’d recommend One Man’s Meat as his best collection. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
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. ( )
  ElenaDanielson | Jan 15, 2016 |
Polished gems crowning the New Yorker magazine at its literary apogee. ( )
  schmicker | Apr 19, 2014 |
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. ( )
  JBD1 | Dec 12, 2013 |
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Turtle Bay, November 12, 1957 For some weeks now I have been engaged in dispersing the contents of this apartment, trying to persuade hunderds of inanimate objects to scatter and leave me alone. (Good-bye to Fourty-Eighth Street)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060932236, Paperback)

The classic collection by one of the greatest essayists of our time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:30 -0400)

The classic collection by one of the greatest essayists of our time, E. B. White.

(summary from another edition)

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