‘Essays of E.B. White,’ by E.B. White – review

Essays of E. B. WhiteEssays of E. B. White by E B White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The essay as a respectful literary genre has not yet established its firm meritorious footing in American intellectual society where the novel, poetry, and journals featuring de rigueur social/political issues with gravitas, surrealistic individualism, or puritanical heroism that has recently morphed into a rags-to-riches memoir are the only select legitimate royalties worth being decorated with a laurel. Perhaps it has something to do with the level of American intellectualism being at its still developing stage in consideration of its relatively “youthful” history. For what is worth, despite its general cold reception from the literary hierarchy, E.B. White is nonetheless a quintessential American English writer and a very fine essayist of the twentieth century in the English language into the bargain. In this collection of his essays published in various magazines over the years (from 1920s to 1970s), Whites recorded the overtones of humanity, democracy, and social concerns in ordinary things and experiences described in elegant and crisp prose style that resembles none other than his, thus making him one of the central figures in the canon of American literature without dispute.

Being an essayist means something of a modern day literary troubadour, an independently-minded man with childlike streaks of artless interest in all things worldly and unworldly and innocent belief that everything he thinks about and everything that befalls him is of general interest. In a way, he’s a likable egoist with venturesome effrontery and verve to write a very egoistic essay on his whims and caprice. However, Whites gently rebukes us for our general perception of the essay as an expression of exalted rootlessness without self-discipline and an intellectual basis; rather, it is a panoply of sensibilities, senses, and intelligence, all broken loose from the hidden private closet of the essayist. For this reason of being egoistically concerned in a panorama of contemporary daily that many serious writers of the other literary genres tend to downplay, an essayist should accept his self-imposed role of small-fry writing gentry in the class of scribe, advised White with a kind of avuncular manner. However, it is this estate of an essayist Whites feels exhilarated about; it provides him with a valve of the emotional influx and outflow, so that he can wield his pen across a page in an expense of his curiosity, conviction, observation, and self-discipline, producing a dazzling delight of literary pleasure in its simplicity of language and subject.

To illustrate, White’s subjects of his essays vary from his experience of moving from New York City to Maine as in “Goodbye to forty-eighth street,” to the humorous political essay of “Bedfellow,” featuring his canine family member Fred, and from his keen and humane observation of a circus girl rehearsing her show in “The Ring of Time” to his youthful poetic experience of working as a waiter on a ship to Alaska in “The Years of Wonder.”All of the aforesaid deal with a cast of everyday character and contemporary daily life written in simple but perspicacious words to contextualize the inner realm of White. There’s no priggishness or pomposity in his prose style, which I find very appealing and endearing. For someone who’s as erudite and intelligent as White, such simplicity of writing betokens that he wears his knowledge lightly with a general reader in mind. In fact, White thinks it his duty as a writing man to record all items as though he would be held personally responsible if it were to be omitted. This idea of a writer as general secretary of humanity parallels the reasons of writing as posited by George Orwell: It serves as a platform of expressing our sheer egotism, aesthetic pleasure, political evidence, or historical record. A priori, both of the great essayist of the English languages strike the mutual writing chords in their hearts.

At the heart of the essays lies White’s love of the world where he collected the flotsams and jetsam of what our contemporary human life could bring to us, which were washed up by the waves of time and memories. This collection of essay by White, I think, bestows in spades its sovereign royal heritage of its own on the American essay that merits its own section in nonfiction aisles across the country. That is, in a wide stretch of literary imaginations imbued with historical evidence, the book has made itself the founder of new royal blood in a way that reminds me of William the Conqueror’s  becoming the first Norman king of England by establishing a new royal bloodline in 1066. With a variety of topics, and the practicality of language, this book is a gem that holds the reader’s attention throughout the pages including the unforgettable cover featuring Fred and the author himself, which so fittingly and wittingly demonstrates the Element and Style of Essays of E.B. White. It’s a lovely read that warms your heart and piques your curiosity of the inner world of the writer whose thoughts and feelings chime the bells of ours own in one way or another because White is ageless in his writing and his writing timeless in his essays.

parliament of words is postponed

Congress of Reason and Sentiment is suspended

Till the key to Forum of Letters that’s

Lost in the midst of midnight madness

Of a phantasmal duo of rebels ignorant and crude

Uprooting the Ministry of Independent Scribe

Is found to continue its usual sessions with verve.

P.S. Until my modus vivendi gets back on the track that is to be renewed with a bella  vistas in a new territory, all is suspended, willed or unwilled. 

Walking on Sunshine

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After four consecutive days of rains and clouds, the sun is finally resplendent with its divine fiery halo in the high blue sky. What a pretty Saturday morning it is! Naturally, Bonnie could not help but perambulate the avenues and streets of Avonlea with her two twin brother and sister called Amy and Eddie in a perambulator. Bonnie and the twins became orphans when their parents died at sea from the sinking of Zeus five years ago. Since then, the children have lived with The Collies because Laura Collie is their distant maternal aunt. Laura and her husband consider them as one of their own, provisioning them with all the necessities of comfortable life. And yet, Bonnie feels that there’s a certain feeling of sadness, loneliness, and yearning all integrated into a crystal ball  of melancholy placed in a jewel box of her heart. It’s like having a dainty music box where you keep your sentimental treasure, such as jewels from your grandmother and your locket from your childhood, and put them on when you reminisce about the memories and are intoxicated with the fragrance of nostalgia that belongs only to you.

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“Good morning, Bonnie! Are these twins your brother and sister? They are so cuddly! What are their names?” Betty Beaver is so enthusiastic to see the babies that she is almost panting with excitement. Betty has her baby brother named tommy, aged 3, and loves him dearly. But seeing this pair of twins makes her heart leap with ebullient joy. “They are Amy and Eddie. Amy was born three minutes earlier than Eddie, who was actually holding her plump ankle while coming out into the world.” Bonnie regrets providing extraneous information on the moment of the twins’ birth because she doesn’t like to be overly talkative, revealing too much about herself. But then it’s such a pretty Saturday afternoon promenade with her brother and sister that she could be lackadaisical about it and all other existential dealings that lay ahead of her.

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After the nice brisk sauntering, Bonnie and Helen are having nice lunch together at Sylvanian Restaurant down on Petticoat Lane, where food is honest-to-goodness made on the premise 6 days a week. (The  proprietor is a very devout Catholic lady, so she attends every Sunday Mass.) Helen feels liberated from her domestic obligations for being a wife and a mother while she’s alone with her neighbor Bonnie. And Bonnie? Well, it’s not exactly freedom secretly entertaining because she never felt burdened with her duty to take care of her twins. But she could at least forget about worries and chronic anxieties about what tomorrow would bring  and dispel her occasional bouts of melancholy by wallowing herself in delicious food and confabulating with Helen. That’s a simple joy of life that Bonnie wants to keep with small pleasures that make her feel loved and content. Simple soul with streaks of melancholy as she may be, Bonnie ‘s philosophy of life is livable and lovable with all its artlessness and genuineness.

thanks-for-reading-Rok-Hardware

Don’t be Wussy; speak out! – review

il_340x270.780791336_h9qsAs the insurgence of #MeToo movement is now a daily recurrence in the media, taking no prisoners at all times regardless of statutes of limitation, it seems that men now live in vigilance of what accusations they might one day be faced with for the misdeeds of the past. In this predominantly matriarchal social epiphenomena born out of latent political dissensions in the background of virulent partisan ideologies, it’s only a woman’s story afflicted with her tearful narration of the tainted experience that we hear. It’s a no man’s world. It’s an amazonian world where women’s voice means dominance, power, and truth. But then we live (or like to think we live) in a highly civilized world of democracy where Reason takes precedence over Appetites (raw feelings and unbridled emotions) that leads to Judgment of Truth. However, this draconian #MeToo tribunal forfeits men’s chance to speak for themselves so that we can hear the other side of the story, whereas there are two sides to every story.

That all women are victims and all women are veritable is a dictum of the movement, which exempts all women from their blemish pasts. As a woman myself, I know that we women can become malicious, vengeful, flagrant, and mendacious if we are hell bent on doing harm on ones who have damaged our egos or destroyed our ambitions. There is no god-given dichotomy of human nature between man and woman. But this mobilization of alleged sexual accusations has, I think, gone too far. It reminds me of the craze of the Salem witch trials, the Jacobean Reign of Terror, and Bolshevik Regime in terms of the vitriolic sound-and-fury rhetoric and militant attitudes toward their sworn public enemies. Any man who has had even the faintest shadow of doubt cast on a supposedly unseemly behavior is now guilty of the generalization of the misdeed and deserves of social defenestration, let alone personal stigmatization for the rest of his life. In sum, he becomes a pariah wearing a scarlet letter till his death.

For instance, we all know the case of Bill Cosby, the legendary comedian who was charged with rape this week and sentenced to a 10-year term in prison, despite his attorney’s plea for leniency on account of his being 81 years old. I can’t say what the women accused him of was true or false, but his accusers do not seem very credible to me, either. Their manners of speech, deportment, and contents of accusations seem all but flamboyant and tritely bromide. And many of the accusations are over 10 years old. They say his punishment meted out justice. What a grand measure of justice, when there are even worse cases of injustice, such as evicting the poor out of their homes for the behoof of gentrification and systematically perpetrating sexual harassment tacitly  against women of low social status at work, including female janitors whose stories once covered in the LA Times? These people seldom or hardly tweet the injustice they have experienced to lay it bare to mete out justice to the perpetrators.

Another example is the case of Ian Buruma, the editor-in-chief of New York Review of Books, who was recently made to resign from his post because he published an essay by a certain Canadian DJ named Jian Ghomeshi, who recounted his personal feelings about being a victim of the #MeToo tribunal without being given a proper stand to tell of his side of story. Just as anyone defending any innocent aristocrat during the French Revolution or any guiltless bourgeois person during Bolshevik Revolution was also punished ruthlessly for being sided with the public enemies, Mr. Burma’s journalistic conscientious act of publishing the other side of the story was thwarted, being condemned for his courageous deed that was regarded as treachery.

I am not here to defend the unseemliness of all men reputed to be lecherous. Not an iota. But looking at this insurmountable #MeToo movement riding on the crest of demagogic wave emboldened by the gratuitous social and political tendency of accusing almost anyone for vindication, I am egged on to say that we should be critical in deciding the credibility of accusers in the context of regarding the nature and truth of all cases as reported based upon evidence, not supra-abundance of vehement hatred and malice to destroy a man’s life for good. The Greek historian Thucydides also knew mendacity of popular belief and warned of eclipsing impact on the truth of any such event; hence he always tried to find out the veracity of historic events by toiling to investigate them through records. Therefore, it is imperative that we also give equal chance to the other (that is, men) to decide who’s to deserve ignominy. That is why I find Cosby’s sentence and Mr. Buruma’s resignation a fortiori fiendishly harsh in the wake of bellicose textual campaign that seems less plausible and empathetic.

P.S.: This essay is based upon my review of an article called “Men should be angrier about #MeToo” by Lionel Shriver in this week’s The Spectator. Ms. Shriver’s perspective on this subject matter strikes a chord with mine. This courageous article emboldened me to write this essay on the subject that I felt strongly about for its politically motivated element. Mind you that real victims do not reveal themselves in fear of retribution and ridicule in public.

Eros and Psyche: Sweet Sublimation

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His love was fixed but unsought
By the ostentation of Eros’s Play,
The casual making-love façade
With no precondition of the soul;
But that which it consummates
Is an union of the two existences
Of Body and Soul, the sovereign
Surrender of the self to the beloved
Becoming a whole, an ensemble
metastasizing  “I” lovingly, willingly
Directed toward “Thou” entirely
In trust of one another wholeheartedly
making him of her and her of him magically.

P.S.: A short essay called “A Courtship of Twenty Years” by John Stuart Mill (1806-73) reveals his infatuation with his friend’s wife, who eventually became his wife. It’s a rhapsody of his admiration of everything about her, her moral character, intellectual gifts, and graceful beauty. This secret affair of the heart is not, however, tinged with a lascivious desire for his friend’s wife thanks to his elucidation of her virtues that benefited him to become wiser and more wholesome; his love for her is a sublimation of the ego, which was capable of integrating the sexuality of the id into the personality. Nowadays reductionism is responsible for interpreting love as a mere sublimation of sex and conscience merely in terms of the superego. But love is the precondition of sex, not the result of the sublimation thereof. What might have been his physical attraction to her at the inception of his love affair was elevated to the actuality of Love, the wholeness of Eros (Body) and Psyche (Soul), which is the essence of love between the lovers.