The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic
Title: The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic
Author: Michael Sims
Publisher: Walker & Company; First Edition 3rd Printing edition (June 7, 2011)
Call Number: PS3545.H5187 Z925 2011
While composing what would become his most enduring and popular book, E. B. White was obeying that oft-repeated maxim: “Write what you know.” Helpless pigs, silly geese, clever spiders, greedy rats—White knew all of these characters in the barns and stables where he spent his favorite hours as a child and adult. Painfully shy, “this boy,” White once wrote of himself, “felt for animals a kinship he never felt for people.” It’s all the more impressive, therefore, how many people have felt a kinship with E. B. White.
In The Story of Charlotte’s Web Michael Sims shows how White solved what critic Clifton Fadiman once called “the standing problem of the juvenile-fantasy writer: how to find, not another Alice, but another rabbit hole.” By mining the raw ore of his childhood in Mount Vernon, New York, in the first decade of the twentieth century, White translated his own passions and contradictions, delights and fears, into a book that would be read the world over. Building on a visit to White’s farm in Maine, viewing his handwritten first draft of Charlotte’s Web, Michael Sims chronicles White’s animal-rich childhood, his writing about urban nature for the New Yorker, his scientific research into how spiders spin webs and lay eggs, his friendship with his legendary editor, Ursula Nordstrom, the composition and publication of his masterpiece, and his ongoing quest to recapture an enchanted childhood.
Michael Sims is the author of acclaimed nonfiction such as Apollo’s Fire and Adam’s Navel, and the editor of anthologies including The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel, The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime, and the recent Dracula’s Guest : A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories. He lives near Pittsburgh.
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