I thought it was going to be a Eudora Welty summer, so imagine my surprise that it's turned out to be the Summer of E.B. White. How do these things happen? Oh, the best laid plans ...
I suppose it started when the Man and I visited a used bookstore on Broad Street in May and I found Letters of E.B. White for three bucks and scooped it up. This book has been a fine companion all summer. I open it in slow moments and read a little, and suddenly the quality of my thoughts vastly improves.
(The critic Harold Bloom once wrote something to the effect that reading novels doesn't improve us morally, as some would have it, but improves our imaginations and interior lives, which is not to be undervalued. This is a broad paraphrase of Bloom, but I've thought about it a lot, and ultimately agree, though I do think some novels have improved me morally.)
I was at the library Saturday when I came across The Story of Charlotte's Web: E.B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic by Michael Sims, which was published last month. I'm about a hundred pages in and completely hooked. The description of White's childhood, which was by all accounts idyllic except that White was shy and prone to melancholia and susceptible to all the usual childhood terrors--which is to say he was a sensitive child--is worth the cost of admission alone.
I haven't even gotten to the part about how White wrote Charlotte's Web, but I'm tingling with anticipation. After all, isn't Charlotte's Web one of my very favorite books ever?
Yes it is, and you know what? It is so much one of my very favorite books ever that when I'm asked to list my favorite books, I rarely answer Charlotte's Web. Why is that? I pondered this yesterday, and yesterday the answer came to me: To say Charlotte's Web is one of my very favorite books ever is akin to saying I have dark brown hair (or did), or that I'm left-handed, or that I grew up in the Army. It's so much of a part of me that it doesn't occur to me to mention it. Did I mention to you that I breathe? That I blink every few seconds?
I nominate E.B. White as the perfect summer literary companion. Who would you nominate?