Party of One: The Selected Writings of Clifton Fadiman

Party of One: The Selected Writings of Clifton Fadiman

Party of One: The Selected Writings of Clifton Fadiman

Party of One: The Selected Writings of Clifton Fadiman

Excerpt

It has been remarked that the superior American writer often becomes famous, wealthy, influential, even more skillful, but only rarely becomes mature. Maturity still makes us uneasy. Many of our writers find growing up not merely difficult but socially unrewarding. Those who do insist on developing whether their readers like it or not are freaks.

E. B. White is a freak.

The statement will embarrass Mr. White, who not only writes as if he were a modest man but actually is one. It may arouse skepticism in others, including those who admire Mr. White for certain qualities that are delightful but relatively unimportant. He has the charm of a dozen Irishmen. He is a master of light verse. His sketches of country living are humorous and poetical. He is fey. He is whimsical. He is funny. Because he is these things there is some danger of his being considered a minor writer.

In using the basso profundo word major I run some risk of alienating people, including the subject of this essay. Nevertheless, E. B. White is a major writer. He is a major writer because his ideas and sentiments are large and basic and because, within the limitations of his chosen style and form, he writes about them perfectly.

In the early years of the New Yorker magazine E. B. White contributed excellent light verse and various prose oddments. For about ten years prior to 1938 he wrote or rewrote the . . .

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