Monthly Archives: September 2007

Guest Blogger: Marianna Torgovnick

Thoughts for the Day on the Stylish E. B. White

Notes2c
For our first assignment, pairs of people fanned out into New York  neighborhoods and wrote up the results.  Our inspirations were an  essay about Chinatown and E.B. White’s Here is New York.  The  Chinatown essay was terrific in seeing Chinatown both as the historic  residence of male workers and, today, as one center of global Chinese  commercial interests and identity.  But, in this blog, and on this  particular day in September, I wanted to say a few words about E.B.  White.
     First, you have heard of him before, even if you didn’t  realize it.  He’s the
same E.B. White who wrote Charlotte’s Web, a  book you may have read as a child and that may even have been the  first time you cried over a book, when Charlotte dies.  He’s also the  E.B. White who wrote Elements of Style, a writer’s handbook used for decades in college courses and still one of the absolute best guides  to writing that I know.  Finally, he was – like you –someone who  loves New York and came here from somewhere else to spend some time  and hone his skills.
      Some parts of Here is New York that I love really stand out  for me.  First, the idea that there are at least three kinds of New  Yorkers mingling on city streets at any given moment – commuters,  those who have come to the city to live, and natives.   People like  you, who have come to the city to live, may actually get to know the  city more than commuters and even natives who stick to their  neighborhoods, often defined as a few square blocks.  Second, the  idea that, “The citizens of New York are tolerant not only from  disposition but from necessity” (p. 47).  And, third, the evocation  of the threat to the city, that “for the first time in its long  history, is destructible” (54).
     Writing just after World War II, White refers to nuclear  weapons.  But his words echoed in 2001 when a photo exhibit called  Here is New York opened in Soho and is being recreated this Fall at  The New York Historical Society.  My last book, The War Complex  (Chicago, 2005), had an evocation of the events of 9/11 and the  subsequent Fall.  I’m attaching typescript since I’ll always  remember the Duke in NY Arts and Media students who spent that Fall  with me.

Download from_the_prologue_to_marianna_torgovnick.doc

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