Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More E. B. White: Writers’ Rooms

Can E. B. White do no wrong? My daughter and I have read Stuart Little (hilarious and delightful) and The Trumpet of the Swan (less good, for a slightly older child, but still wonderfully imaginative). Charlotte’s Web, beloved on DVD (we have an old cartoon version with Paul Lynde as the rat!), awaits reading.

And then there are The Elements of Style, of course. But what about this month’s find: an amazing little tidbit from his Harper’s column on the dangers of progress and change. The whole thing is great, but this observation about the dangers of renovating one’s writing room amused me most:
Yet for all that, there is always a subtle danger in life’s refinements, a dim degeneracy in progress. I have just been refining the room in which I sit, yet I sometimes doubt that a writer should refine or improve his workroom by so much as a dictionary: one thing leads to another and the first thing you know he has a stuffed chair and is fast asleep in it.

So, I’m thinking about that wonderful wit and versatility and, in doing so, remembered a recent conversation with Garth, who recommended White’s Here is New York, which I’ve not read. It awaits me on the coffee table now.

If you want to contemplate writer’s rooms, it’s hard to beat the Guardian. And if you want to read a funny essay by Garth Risk Hallberg, pop over to Slate where he has some amusing things to say about the corruption inherent in Amazon’s “reviews.” This piece could so easily have become a breast-beating screed: oh! where is the honor of the reviewer! how far have we fallen! Instead, he tells us more about something that anyone can see smacks of corruption: yep, those “top 10 reviewers” are not really reviewers in any traditional sense, neither amateurs nor professionals, they’re “a curious hybrid: part customer, part employee” and, as he notes wryly, “this feels like a loss.” It does indeed.


genevieve said...

Ooh, beware also the long couch which can be reclined upon.
That Slate essay could be very useful to me, Anne, I'm writing about reviewing just now - thanks for the link.

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