The cat, David, is lying beside me, a most unsatisfactory arrangement, as he gives me cat fever. My sensitivity to cats defeats the whole purpose of a cat, which is to introduce a note of peace in a room. -- E.B. White, One Man's Meat, "A Week in April"
The first sign of spring here is when the ice breaks up in the inkwell at the post office. A month later the ice leaves the lakes. And a month after that the first of the summer visitors shows up and the tax collector's wife removes the town records from her Frigidaire and plugs it in for the summer. -- One Man's Meat, "Town Meeting"
I have to say, I never was a fan of Charlotte's Web. Far too traumatic. But One Man's Meat, a collection of E.B. White's columns and essays, has been a favorite of mine for eight years now.
First off, that cover is one of my favorite writerly photos of all time. It's enough to jumpstart a writing session, right there. And it's a fine introduction to the style of the book itself.
I grabbed One Man's Meat for the first time on a particularly terrible day, a day with a bleak, eight-hour wait. And E.B. White made for marvelous company. It was like listening to a fantastic great-uncle. He told me all about his saltwater farm in Maine, about life in the late 30s, early 40s. About war, about eggs, about his dachsunds, the sheep, the people in his town.
He effectively distracted me that whole day. His essays kept me sane and civil, and better still, tuned my ear to his fine writing style. You'd hope that one of the men behind The Elements of Style would, in fact, be a good writer, and this book shows that you won't be disappointed.
I have a hard time describing his writing, actually. I keep wanting to say that it's simple, but that isn't really true. Or I want to call it plain, but that sounds demeaning. Maybe it's more accurate to call it straightforward or clear.
However you classify it, any time spent with White's essays does for me what good poetry does. He makes me see and feel my own life more distinctly. After showing me the details and observations that make up his days, he releases me back to my own, and I find myself thinking about the hope I feel when grinding coffee, or the blanketing kettle steam on my hand as I pour the water.
So. See what you think. It's a great collection to get lost in for a while, to browse through when you have a moment, or to read steadily, night after night. (It also stands up to a nerve-wracking day, take my word for it.)
Recommendation: To celebrate this book, I'd make some kind of hearty Sunday supper. Roast chicken, new potatoes, cornbread, fresh fruit. Some meal with basic food, simple but soul-warming, fit for farm life. At the very least, scramble some eggs or find yourself a custard, with a tip of the hat to White's productive hens.
PS: While looking up information on White's North Brooklin farm, I found this awesome website. Literary travels? What? What?? Hello daydreaming material!