Monday, May 4, 2015

E.B. White: Poet, Storyteller, Essayist

"If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy.  If the world were merely challenging, that would be easy.  But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day…”    E.B. White (1899-1987)

In response to the poetry of Ted Kooser and Charles Wright, which I included in my last blog, my genius cousins Leo and Kathy Curro from Canton, NY, sent me this wonderful quote (above) from E.B. White.  That quote says exactly how I feel every day, that's the very conflict: wanting to improve the world and wanting to enjoy it. 

E.B. White. I know that name. I did a little refresher research. Aha! The E.B. White of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, a writer's bible. The E.B. White who wrote "Charlotte's Web," "Stuart Little," and "The Trumpet of the Swan," stories I read over and over to my kids and grandkids. The E.B. White who wrote for The New Yorker, the essayist in the tradition of David Thoreau and Mark Twain. 

I think about this for a while. E.B. White loved to write, in different genres. The poet, storyteller, essayist.  Is this a dying breed? Are these genres disappearing? Old fashioned?No longer speak to us as they once did?   People have thoughts, ideas, stories, comments they want to share, but today we turn to social media, to facebook and Twitter, to blogging and online commentary on the events of the day.  We "google" and "post," usually into a great cosmic silence.  Is this the 21st-century digital equivalent of the 19th  and early 20th-century essayists?  Sure, some of us love reading the New Yorker, the New Republic, magazines and other print sources, even books . But I must admit I find myself saying "I can get it online."  And I do.  

Still, we, our generation, born in the late 1930s and early 1940s, a bit before the Boomers, some of us on the cusp, honor and revere the print tradition, believe with poet laureate Charles Wright that words have power.  They move us, to thought, to action. They inform and clarify our thinking, our conflicts and challenges.  To improve the world or to enjoy the world?   Perhaps, indeed, we are the dying breed. 

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