About the Author
E. B. White, the author of such beloved classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, was born in Mount Vernon, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and, five or six years later, joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine, then in its infancy. He died on October 1, 1985, and was survived by his son and three grandchildren.
Mr. White's essays have appeared in Harper's magazine, and some of his other books are: One Man's Meat, The Second Tree from the Corner, Letters of E. B. White, Essays of E. B. White, and Poems and Sketches of E. B. White. He won countless awards, including the 1971 National Medal for Literature and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which commended him for making a "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children."
During his lifetime, many young readers asked Mr. White if his stories were true. In a letter written to be sent to his fans, he answered, "No, they are imaginary tales . . . But real life is only one kind of life—there is also the life of the imagination."
From The Washington Post
Language lovers everywhere can be grateful for the reappearance of Letters of E.B. White (HarperCollins, $35), originally collected and edited by Dorothy Lobrano Guth and published in 1976, and now updated by his granddaughter Martha White to include newly released letters from the last decade of his life. A prose stylist with the word version of perfect pitch, White was the unassuming but masterly New Yorker writer, Maine farmer and author of the beloved classics Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web. In many ways, he was a man of few words who always found the right ones.
From the first (dated 1908 -- he was born in 1899) to the last (in 1985, the year he died), these letters are a window onto White's world. He described himself once as "a fellow who spends most of his time crouched over a typewriter." As John Updike's affectionate foreword concludes: "His letters give us . . . what a novel scarcely can: the dailiness of a life, its wearing parade of duties and decencies, its endless-seeming fending (though it does end), its accumulating pyramid of, amid errands, carelessly and alertly noted hours, and the frequent if rarely stated discriminations whereby an artist picks his path."
White once told his brother Stanley, "I avoid writing letters -- it resembles too closely writing itself, and gives me a headache." We're all the richer for his having not been true to his words.
Dip in anywhere and come up with sentences that are simple and funny and wise:
"So far, nobody has managed to entice me in front of a television camera with my mouth open and my foot in it. And that's the way I plan to keep it." (January 1978, declining a request for an interview from CBS News's Andy Rooney)
"Here's a report from Minneapolis, home of the Twins. A mother of two . . . who works in a bookstore, says the ELEMENTS [of Style] is propped up on the front table with all the other hot paperbacks -- between the Rand McNally Road Atlas and The Joy of Sex -- and is selling faster than either of them. Actually, it's scary to learn that the country is turning from sex to semicolons. Makes me uneasy." (July 20, 1979)
"Quite simply, the best in-depth study ever made of an out-of-his-depth man." (May 28, 1983, suggesting to his biographer a blurb for the dust jacket)
"Thanks for calling me 'Professor E.B. White.' It has a nice sound but can be shortened to 'E.B. White' -- a saving of one word and a long step toward accuracy." (Dec. 27, 1983)
Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.