E.B. White was an esteemed, loved and talented author who published his first work in 1925 for The New Yorker Magazine. Author to three beloved children’s classics; Stewart Little, Charlotte’s Web and Trumpet of the Swan published in 1945, 1952 and 1970 respectively. Notably White was one of my favored authors during my childhood. He lived and wrote each of these three books before I was born yet such an impression was left upon me through his words that I know them by heart today.
Countless times I have read these books to myself and with my children and have enjoyed watching my huckleberries read these timeless classics, sometimes more than once. I believe it was the goose from Charlotte’s Web who they loved to hear me impersonate, if a goose can be impersonated. In any event, over and over again my huckleberries would ask for me to re-read the parts where the goose stuttered and continually repeated herself or when the gander tried to spell a word for Charlotte.
I remember the very first copy of Charlotte’s Web that I ever purchased. It was in May 1978 at the Gardner Park Library Book Fair. This I know because the date was hand stamped in the front cover by the librarian whose name was quite possibly Mrs. Ray. This original copy of mine now with yellowing clear tape across the cover proudly sits upon one of my many bookshelves today. Over the years it has been opened so many times that tape was needed to just hold it together. Why do I keep this old ragged book? Quite simply, it is no longer for reading as I am not sure how many more reads it has left, but as a remembrance of what words meant to me, thoughts, ideas and imagination. There are several other copies, newer and less used that keep it company on the shelf but the purchase of my first E.B. White book at age seven will forever be one of my fondest memories.
Of course, at such a young age I had no inkling of who E.B. White was or of his notoriety; I only knew that this book with a cover depicting an ordinary little girl holding a humble pig while gazing up at a spider’s web captured my attention. Mr. White was yet to capture my heart and mind with the words that lay in the pages ahead. I should also give just credit to Garth Montgomery Williams for his wonderful illustrations in both Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.
As humans we tend to forget that we can continue to grow and learn long after we have graduated from whatever learning institution we set our sights upon and while never having officially researched E.B. White or his works I was unaware that he had penned any other books until one day while roaming the shelves of a local venue, I happened upon the words Here is New York ~ E.B. White written on the spine of a small book. Extremely elated to find that he had written more than children’s literature I was literally ecstatic. My family, quite used to my excitement when I bring home books, new to me but usually quite old, sat and listened to my ramblings on how finding this book transpired.
Considering my personal library to be quite vast it is not uncommon for me to return home from a book outing with more books than I can carry at once. Some acquire shoes – I acquire books. With absolute honestly I can say that with today’s hectic schedule and juggling sessions of soccer practices, games and tournaments, karate classes, guitar lessons and Krav this full-time working mother of three feels it an accomplishment to find another square inch in my home to house my books for future reading and to take time to breathe!
My bookshelves overflow with volumes of literature; Classics, American, English, European, Children’s, Poetry & Prose and then some. When I pass a bookshelf and spot a book that I have been meaning to read but time hasn’t allowed, it is like finding that treasure all over again. Such is the case with Here is New York.
Last week I clutched the book on my way out the door should I find time to squeeze in some reading. I should clarify that White’s original writing of Here is New York was penned in 1948 as a magazine article for Holiday, an American travel magazine published from 1946-1977. The book I now possess is the seventy-five hundred word essay that E.B. White wrote with a new introduction by Roger Angell, White’s step-son.
Scattered as my thoughts often are it was my hope to read this book while waiting at the little Huckleberry’s karate lesson. The book after all is small, only fifty-six pages cover to cover and that included the introduction which begins as page seven. Easy read…not hardly. The book was entrancing, it was poetry, it was love, it was difficult to understand through some spots, only due to my ignorance and due to the fact that people, writers of today, do not write as one wrote in the days of E. B. White. I found myself re-reading sections, looking up words, imagining the history of New York; what it might have been like in 1925 when E.B. White saw it for the first time as well as in 1948 when he revisited for the sole purpose of writing this specific essay. I decided that one reading just wasn’t going to allow me to achieve all that I wanted from this book. I finished the book, waited a few days, then reopened it and began again. This time everything I felt the first go-round was amplified in my mind. I truly felt as if I were there in 1948 walking the streets with E.B. White, seeing the sights he beheld, hearing the sounds especially ‘the Queen Mary and her mournful horn’ even those and gazing upon those profound landmarks that haven’t existed in New York for some generations.
I finished the book, for the second time with a feeling of wanting to revisit New York myself. While having been a traveler there twice before, I was much younger and simply could not appreciate all that I saw myself. This time I want to visit New York and take a deeper look to see if it is possible to imagine what New York was like eighty-six as well as sixty-four years ago as E.B. White experienced it.