Quotenik
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E. B. White

(1899–1985)

U.S. writer

“For about a month now we have had solid cold—firm, business-like cold that stalked in and took charge of the countryside as a brisk housewife might take charge of someone else’s kitchen in an emergency.”

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source: “Cold Weather,” in One Man’s Meat (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1944), 346.

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medium: essay

notes: White wrote this essay in January 1943.

“They heard and felt the breath of spring, and they stirred with new life and hope. There was a good, new smell in the air, a smell of earth waking after its long sleep.”

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source: The Trumpet of the Swan (New York: HarperCollins, 2000), 9.

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“I’ve discovered that one’s ‘ideal editor’ changes as one ages. At 83, with one eye gone and a lot of my hearing, my ideal editor is a young woman, preferably a pretty one, who doesn’t necessarily know anything about prose but who is a good driver and willing to take me on long journeys in my car.”

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source: Letters of E. B. White, rev. edition edited by Martha White (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007), 664.

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medium: letter

notes: letter to Ms. Elsie Myers Stainton dated May 24, 1983

“To me, Nature is continuously absorbing—that is, she is a twenty-four-hour proposition, fifty-two weeks of the year—but to radio people, Nature is an oddity tinged with malevolence and worthy of note only in her more violent moments. The radio either lets Nature alone or gives her the full treatment, as it did at the approach of the hurricane called Edna.”

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source: “The Eye of Edna,” New Yorker, September 25, 1954.

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medium: Essay

“‘Well, I am pretty,’ replied Charlotte. ‘There’s no denying that. Almost all spiders are rather nice-looking. I’m not as flashy as some, but I’ll do.'”

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source: Charlotte’s Web (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 37.

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medium: Fiction

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth. They accept, almost without question, anything you present them with, as long as it is presented honestly, fearlessly, and clearly. I handed them, against the advice of experts, a mouse-boy, and they accepted it without a quiver. In Charlotte’s Web, I gave them a literate spider, and they took that.”

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source: The Paris Review Interviews, vol. IV (New York: Picador, 2009), 147.

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medium: Interview

“Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net. They love words that give them a hard time, provided they are in a context that absorbs their attention. I’m lucky again—my own vocabulary is small, compared to most writers, and I tend to use the short words. So it’s no problem for me to write for children. We have a lot in common.”

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source: The Paris Review Interviews, vol. IV (New York: Picador, 2009), 147.

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medium: Interview

“Just to live in New England in winter is a full-time job; you don’t have to ‘do’ anything. The idle pursuit of making-a-living is pushed to one side, where it belongs, in favor of living itself, a task of such immediacy, variety, beauty, and excitement that one is powerless to resist its wild embrace.”

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source: “A Report in January,” in Essays of E. B. White (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 46.

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medium: Essay

“Remember that writing is translation, and the opus to be translated is yourself.”

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source: letter to a student dated December 10, 1951, in Letters of E. B. White, rev. edition edited by Martha White (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007), 316.

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medium: Letter

via: Carmela Ciuraru

“No matter what changes take place in the world, or in me, nothing ever seems to disturb the face of spring.”

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source: “A Report in Spring,” in Essays of E. B. White (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 15.

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medium: Essay

“What happens to me when I cross the Piscataqua and plunge rapidly into Maine at a cost of seventy-five cents in tolls? I cannot describe it. I do not ordinarily spy a partridge in a pear tree, or three French hens, but I do have the sensation of having received a gift from a true love. And when, five hours later, I dip down across the Narramissic and look back at the tiny town of Orland, the white spire of its church against the pale-red sky stirs me in a way that Chartres could never do. It was the Narramissic that once received as fine a lyrical tribute as was ever paid to a river—a line in a poem by a schoolboy, who wrote of it, ‘It flows through Orland every day.’ I never cross that mild stream without thinking of his testimonial to the constancy, the dependability of small, familiar rivers.”

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source: “Home-Coming,” in Essays of E. B. White (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 9.

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medium: Essay

“Over a period of thirty years, I have occupied eight caves in New York, eight digs—four in the Village, one on Murray Hill, three in Turtle Bay. In New York, a citizen is likely to keep on the move, shopping for the perfect arrangement of rooms and vistas, changing his habitation according to fortune, whim, and need. And in every place he abandons he leaves something vital, it seems to me, and starts his new life somewhat less encrusted, like a lobster that has shed its skin and is for a time soft and vulnerable.”

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source: “Good-Bye to Forty-Eighth Street,” in Essays of E. B. White (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 6.

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“Swallows, I have noticed, never use any feather but a white one in their nest-building, and they always leave a lot of it showing, which makes me believe that they are interested not in the feather’s insulating power but in its reflecting power, so that when they skim into the dark barn from the bright outdoors they will have a beacon to steer by.”

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source: “Home-Coming,” in Essays of E. B. White (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 12.

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medium: Essay

‎”For some weeks now I have been engaged in dispersing the contents of this apartment, trying to persuade hundreds of inanimate objects to scatter and leave me alone. It is not a simple matter. I am impressed by the reluctance of one’s worldly goods to go out again into the world.”

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source: “Goodbye to Forty-Eighth Street,” in Essays of E. B. White (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 3.

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medium: Essay

“A home is like a reservoir equipped with a check valve: the valve permits influx but prevents outflow. Acquisition goes on night and day—smoothly, subtly, imperceptibly. I have no sharp taste for acquiring things, but it is not necessary to desire things in order to acquire them.”

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source: “Goodbye to Forty-Eighth Street,” in Essays of E. B. White (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 4.

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medium: Essay

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