Ah, the clever Mr. Corsale has struck again.
Omit needless words!
E.B. White wrote for the N.Y.er magazine, not that you'd ever know it. His name rarely appeared. Hardly anyone's name appeared who wrote for the N.Y.er before Tina Brown became editor and changed things around for the better. She put in the writer's names and told you something about who they were.
E.B. White was called a very good writer by various people who should know, I guess. He wrote a lot of those small unsigned items. The ones that made me wonder what I was doing looking at the magazine at all had to do with pigeons, robins, snow falling, leaves falling, and the kind of stuff no self-respecting student on StatNisland would ever think of reading, much less writing about.
How was I supposed to know that was good writing?
I just thought it was boring.
One N.Y.er writer wrote thousands of columns on the subject of an orange. Well, maybe lots of oranges. There was more about oranges in that whole issue than there are oranges in the world. It was amazing. Unreadable, but amazing, nonetheless. Like, who were the orange audience? John McPhee is the author's name.
White wrote short, simple paragraphs and didn't get all balled up in his rhetoric, like some of us, I'm not saying who.
He wrote a nice story about a Model-T auto trip he made across the country before there were roads across the country, in the 'twenties.
He later moved from NYC to a farm on the coast of Maine, where he wrote in a little house overlooking the water. There he wrote "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little," and another children's story, I can't remember the name.
A collection of his short works was favored by a sizable number of American soldiers during WWII, in Europe. The collection was called "One Man's Meat," and I guess it gave the men a flavor of home. He was very evocative that way, writing simply about simple things.
There are several books by or about him that you can find if you go looking. One contains many letters he wrote to friends, just the usual correspondence one might write if one weren't in the habit of just picking up the phone.
What White could do better than a lot of people was that he could tell you how he felt about something, or how he felt, without just giving you one of those one word answers that your kid does when you ask him what he's doing and he says "Nuthin.' Or you ask how he feels, and he says, "Okay."
White didn't do that. He would describe, in a few words, how he felt and you would understand just how the flu felt.
Try it some time.
It's like trying to imitate Matisse.
He died maybe a decade or so ago.
His son, Joel, became a noted boatbuilder in Maine.
I think EBW would get a laugh to think that the English usage booklet he wrote (available in any decent bookstore), based on his class notes from his Cornell English professor, Strunk, hence Strunk and White, has been used in a send-up of bad writing on the 'Net.
White was a stickler for good usage, himself, and his 2d wife was an editor of the N.Y'er, so editing was all around him, but his attitude was not tyrannical, I don't think, otherwise he couldn't have written as democratically as he did, and for children.
Her son, his stepson, is Roger Angell, a longtime N.Y.er writer, particularly on baseball.
White, I think, would enjoy looking at our postings, see what little merit there is in them, feel encouraged that we are, at least, using the written form of the tongue, in the vernacular, as we learned and spoke it on Da Island. After giving it ten minutes of perusal, he would return to his isolated study and turn out, over a winter, a story, set on StatNisland, featuring some Web-footed or Three-legged Islander as the hero and it would be fascinating.
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