Connecting the Dots

Photo of E.B. WhiteRecently I have been reading quite a lot, and to say I am fascinated by some people’s command of language would be a gross understatement.  Regretfully, I feel that while I can BS endlessly, I write quite poorly as a whole and am jealous of these people.

One book I’ve read recently–or reread as it were–is Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.  The forward once again captivated me in a way that the subject rarely is, and as I neared it’s end and saw who wrote it, I am embarrassed to admit that I had not previously considered that the White half of Strunk and White, is E.B. White; the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.

You see, of late I have also been reading Letters of E. B. White; all the while in shock that a man who is best known for writing children’s books writes with such grace.  Connecting the dots, it would appear I now have a new author to count amongst my favorites, and here is one food-related E.B White quote, from a letter he wrote to Bennet Cerf regarding Charlotte’s Web, that I am especially fond of.

A farm is a peculiar problem for a man who likes animals because the fate of most livestock is that they are murdered by their benefactors. The creatures may live serenely but they end violently, and the odor of doom hangs about them always.

I have kept several pigs, starting them in the spring as weanlings and carrying trays to them all through the summer and fall. The relationship bothered me. Day by day I became better acquainted with my pig, and he with me, and the fact that the whole adventure pointed toward an eventual piece of double-dealing on my part lent an eerie quality to the thing.

3 Responses to “Connecting the Dots”

  1. Stephen Schenkenberg Says:

    I had that exact feeling recently reading excerpts from the new six-volume collection of Van Gogh’s letters. We’re supposed to remember him as some ear-slicing maniac, but just take a look at his command of language, as you put it, in this letter to his brother Theo in November 1878:

    There are places here and there where stones are found and therefore small quarries to which sunken roads with the deep ruts of cart tracks lead, where one sees small white horses with red tassels and drivers with blue smocks, and the shepherd is not lacking, nor old women in black with white caps reminiscent of those by Degroux. There are also places here — as there are everywhere, for that matter, thank God — where one feels at home more than elsewhere, where one gets a remarkable, familiar feeling like homesickness, which has something bitterly melancholy about it but which nevertheless strengthens and awakens the spirit in us and gives us new strength and appetite for work and stimulates us, we know not how or why. That day I walked on, past Forest, and took a side road to an old church overgrown with ivy. I saw many lime trees, even more entwined with one another and even more Gothic, so to speak, than those we saw in the park, and at the side of the sunken road leading to the cemetery twisted bushes and the roots of trees, as gnarled as those Dürer etched in ‘Knight, Death and the Devil’. Have you ever seen a painting, or rather a photo of it, by Carlo Dolci, The Garden of Olives? There’s something Rembrandtesque about it, saw it recently. You no doubt know the large, rough etching of the same subject after Rembrandt, being the pendant of the other, Reading the Bible, with those two women and the cradle. It came to mind after you told me that you had seen the painting by père Corot of the same subject; I saw it at the exhibition of his work shortly after he died, and it moved me deeply.

  2. Ned Says:

    (Yo: If you are enjoying reading those letters, I strongly recommend that you hunt down Vincent, an achingly beautiful documentary from the 1980s in which John Hurt’s narration of excerpts from the letters is set to imagery tracing the larger trajectory of Van Gogh’s life.)

  3. Stef Says:

    I never realized who White was either. Thanks for sharing that factoid!

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