Why I love E.B. White

SUMMERTIME
by E.B. White

Summertime this year is a ripe girl who finds herself forsaken by the boys, the ordinarily attentive and desirous boys. They are nowhere to be found; they have disappeared, the way males do, seized by some sudden mechanical flirtation, some new interest of a passing sort. Summertime is a girl who knows they will be back and who is conscious that she herself is irresistible over the long term, that her beauty and her accommodating ways have lost no fraction of their power. We had summertime practically to ourself the other afternoon, and in our guilt we lay with her in the name of all who were temporarily denied that privilege, admiring her incredible poise. The scent of her clothes was unmistakable; her sea, her sand, her sky wore the same look as ever; the insects which are her private minstrels sang the same seductive measure. We have never seen a discarded female more sure of where she stood than summertime. (8/12/44, SUMMERTIME, Writings from THE NEW YORKER, 1927-1976)

VERMIN
by E.B. White

The mouse of Thought infests my head.
He knows my cupboard and the crumb.
Vermin! I despise Vermin.
I have no trap, no skill with traps,
No bait, no hope, no cheese, no bread–
I fumble with the task to no avail.
I’ve seen him several times lately.
He is too quick for me,
I see only his tail.

(10/7/44), “VERMIN”, Writings from THE NEW YORKER 1927-1976)

THE COST OF HYPHENS
by E.B. White

The pain which attends all literary composition is increased, in some cases, by the writer’s knowing how much per word he will receive for his effort. We came upon a writer at his work recently, and were allowed to sit quietly by while he finished his stint. Quite casually he mentioned that he was getting fifty cents a word. A moment or two later his face became contorted with signs of an internal distress. With his hand poised above the machine, he seemed to be fighting something out with himself. Finally, he turned to us. “Listen,” he said grimly, “do you hyphenate ‘willy-nilly’?” We nodded, and saw him wince as he inserted the little mark, at a cost of half a dollar. (12/15/28, “THE COST OF HYPHENS”, Writings from THE NEW YORKER, 1927-1976)

Blogger’s Note: Aspiring young writers often ask me who my favorite writer is. I like several writers, but for warm, effortless, beautiful, simple writing — the kind that you would reach out for on a Sunday afternoon — I have but one name: E.B. White. Read his little essays and discover that the art of writing lies not in the bigness of words, but in the currents of life told simply.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

Share This Post On