Last week I finished reading East of Eden. A few hours later, I stalked my bookshelves to see what I should read next. I pulled a couple books out that I've been wanting to read/reread, but none of them seemed quite right. It was hard to imagine following up this American classic with a recently published Canadian novel--it didn't seem terribly fair to the newer book, but I also wasn't sure I was ready to dive into Dickens' Bleak House quite yet (but will I ever be, I wonder?) and while I am itching to reread Yates's Revolutionary Road, I didn't want to read two mid-century American novels in a row.
I've been reading Charlotte's Web to my boys. It's one of my favourite books of all-time. My friend Alexis recently posted this article about E.B. White's writing of Charlotte's Web and in it White's essay "Death of a Pig" is referenced. I pulled Essays of E.B. White off the shelf and began to read.
It won't be a revelation to anyone who knows his work, but I had merely read his Charlotte's Web and what a treat his essays are. I've only read the first six, but I am in love. He is a brilliant wordsmith and very, very funny. Already, I feel like I know him and that I like him very much.
"The Eye of Edna," about waiting for Hurricane Edna (but really about media-hysteria, which feels quite relevant today) to hit is a pure joy. I knew, thanks to previous essays, White farmed in Maine, but when he mentioned going to the shore to pull up his boat and that he lives to the east of Penobscot Bay, it reminded me of another book I adored. Once I finished the essay, I went to the kids' bookshelf and pulled out Robert McCloskey's Time of Wonder and read it to my youngest.
I've never been to New England or lived on an island or learned to sail or lived in the 1950s (shocking, I know), but Time of Wonder always leaves me feeling nostalgic. I discovered the book as an adult and love reading it to my kids (probably more than they like being read to).
In McCloskey's book, there is a hurricane and now I wonder if White's Hurricane Edna was also the inspiration for Time of Wonder. I did a cursory search on the internet, but found nothing. Perhaps it's better not to know, but now I wonder if I'll ever not think of the two hurricanes as the same one, both remembered in very different, but equally excellent ways.