Thursday, July 28, 2011

on E.B. White

This piece about E.B. White and the new book about the making of Charlotte's Web made me love that man more than I already did:

One early fall morning in 1949, E.B. White walked into the barn of his farm in Maine and saw a spider web. That in itself was nothing new, but this web, with its elaborate loops and whorls that glistened with early morning dew, caught his attention. Weeks passed until one cold October evening when he noticed that the spider was spinning what turned out to be an egg sac. White never saw the spider again and, so, when he had to return later that fall to New York City to his job as a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine, White took out a razor blade and cut the silken egg sac out of the web. He put the sac in an empty candy box, punched some holes in it, and absent-mindedly put the box atop his bedroom bureau in New York.

Weeks later, a movement on that bureau alerted him to the fact that tiny spiderlings were making a Great Escape through the air holes. White was delighted at this affirmation of life and left the hundreds of barn spiderlings alone for the next week or so — to spin webs from his hair brush to his nail scissors to his mirror — until, finally, the cleaning lady complained.

And this:

White's own later estimation of his work is, perhaps, most touching. In old age, when he was suffering from Alzheimer's, White liked to have his own essays and books read to him. Sometimes, White would ask who wrote what he was listening to, and his chief reader, his son Joe, would tell him, "You did, Dad." Sims says White "would think about this odd fact for a moment and sometimes murmur, 'Not bad.' "

E.B. White's free hand sketch of Charlotte

1 comment:

  1. isn't it strange how things can influence... inspire... rattle one person so much that it shapes their life. something so small as a spiders egg sac. something that has no bearing in my small measure of time on this planet made him beloved.

    makes you wonder what will be that small silken egg that hatches a new world into our own lives.