Magazine article The Nation

The Years with White

Magazine article The Nation

The Years with White

Article excerpt

E.B. White, who died last week at 86, was a New Yorker in the most graceful way: he had the presence of mind, the sense of humor and the instinct for survival to spend most of his time in Maine. In his fanciful books and sensible essays he set a tone not only for The New Yorker, which indelibly bears his mark, but also for a gently moral metropolitan style which informed the conscience of his time. Better than anyone, White mixed visions of nature with aspects of culture to produce a uniquely humane text which was his life as much as his work.

How might White have parsed the fractious elements of another prominent New Yorker's style--that of the irrepressible, irresponsible and, as far as we can tell, irredeemable Mayor Ed Koch? Koch was begging for an analysis when he attacked certain public-school teachers for mispronouncing the word "ask," as in "I axed the Mayor why he cannot resist making racist insults in a city seething with ethnic tensions? …

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