Author of the much beloved Charlotte's Web, Elwyn Brooks White was born this day in 1899, and went on to become a celebrated American writer of surprising character. He defended free speech even in the McCarthy era, wrote an essay on the vulnerability of New York oft-cited in reflections after September 11, and showed immense respect for nature. He argued against pollution, bemoaned that "Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission," and declared, "I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority."
Frequently struggling with his writing, White found inspiration in the natural world and "imagined personality into everything", intuitively personifying what he saw. White says the project of writing Charlotte's Web, an unusually dark story for children, "started innocently enough" and developed into the tale we know today only because he took pleasure in the process of writing it. The titular Charlotte herself was inspired by a real spider, whose egg sac he took home with him after she disappeared and whose offspring subsequently infested his apartment. The little things were spinning webs everywhere. Rather than be repulsed, White was fascinated.
White devoted himself to meticulous research for the writing of Charlotte's Web, learning all he could about spiders, the information from which he then spun into the charming simplicity of a children's story. Anthropomorphism has long been viewed as a juvenile literary technique, but White's work makes the case that it's entirely possible for talking animals to participate in a mature story that reaffirms life while wrestling with the inevitability of mortality.
Like E. B. White, we at Chungaboo would like to nurture in every child a sense of awe and curiosity toward all living things. If your family is one that doesn't mind crowds as much as he did, we wish to extend an invitation to our upcoming BookBash this weekend, to celebrate life and the joy of reading, and we hope you take a moment to remember this quiet man who fathered a masterpiece.
"All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world."
--E. B. White