Monday, August 11, 2008

Eudora Welty on Charlotte's Web

I'm reading a book right now called The Eye of the Story, a collection of essays and reviews by the master short story writer, Eudora Welty.

Because of the title, I expected the book to be mostly about writing, but I was surprised and pleased to find a whole section of Eudora Welty's reviews of books that were popular or new at the time. Including books by Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, and the most pleasant surprise (for me, anyway), a review of E. B. White's Charlotte's Web, the year it came out. She says:
"What the book is about is friendship on earth, love and affection, adventure and miracle, life and death, trust and treachery, night and day and the seasons. As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and perfectly effortless and magical, as far as I can see, in the doing."
Classic works like Charlotte's Web are such an ingrained part of our literature and culture, that we almost take them for granted. I can sometimes forget that a book like that was actually created by someone, published by someone, and reviewed by someone in real-time. It can seem like it just popped right out of thin air, fully formed and beautiful.

So I had a lot of fun reading this review and imagining what it might have been like opening the book for the very first time, before you had seen the movie (animated or live action), or heard the story, or seen the book on somebody else's shelf.

And it makes you think...what is coming out now, this very moment, that will someday be treated as an old classic that has been around forever, well-loved, and taken for granted?

You can read a short version of Eudora Welty's review of Charlotte's Web at the New York Times (includes an audio clip of E. B. White reading from the book).

You can read all kinds of interesting articles and reviews on Eudora Welty's Featured Author Page also at the New York Times (includes audio of Ms. Welty reading some of her short stories).

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