In January, I wrote about the release of William Styron’s letters, which reveal, among other things, that Styron requested a book on Nat Turner after visiting “the most enormous house [he’d] ever seen” in Cornwall. At the Times Literary Supplement, you can read more.
E. B. White is one of those writers you are liable to meet again and again in the course of a reading life, each time wearing a different expression. To children, he is the author of Charlotte’s Web; to college students, he is half of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Later on, he helped define the voice of the early New Yorker. Now all those Whites have been brought together in the pages of In the Words of E. B. White: Quotations from America’s Most Companionable of Writers, an anthology of quotations edited by his granddaughter Martha White.
“I didn’t really understand what reading was for. If I wanted a story, the thing to do was to get my grandmother to read it to me. Then listening to her voice, her story-reading voice which always sounded a little incredulous, marvelling, yet full of faith, bravely insistent, and watching her face, its meaningful and utterly familiar expressions—lifted eyebrows, ominously sinking chin, brisk little nods of agreement when, as sometimes happened, a character said something sensible—then I would feel the story grow into life and exist by itself, so that it hardly seemed to me that she was reading it out of a book at all; it was something she had created herself, out of thin air… But one summer I had the whooping-cough, and afterwards I could not go swimming or jump off the beams in the barn or boss my little brother, because by that time he had the whooping-cough himself. My grandmother was off somewhere, visiting other cousins. So I swung on my swing until I got dizzy, and then for no reason in particular I took the Child’s History out of the bookcase in the front room, and sat down on the floor and started to read.” Alice Munro writes about A Child’s History of England, the first book she ever read.