The Story of Charlotte's Web
E. B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic
By Michael Sims
(Walker & Company, Hardcover, 9780802777546, 320pp.)
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
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A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011
As he was composing what was to become his most enduring and popular book, E. B. White was obeying that oft-repeated maxim: "Write what you know." Helpless pigs, silly geese, clever spiders, greedy rats-White knew all of these characters in the barns and stables where he spent his favorite hours. Painfully shy his entire life, "this boy," White once wrote of himself, "felt for animals a kinship he never felt for people." It's all the more impressive, therefore, how many people have felt a kinship with E. B. White. With Charlotte's Web, which has gone on to sell more than 45 million copies, the man William Shawn called "the most companionable of writers" lodged his own character, the avuncular author, into the hearts of generations of readers.
In The Story of Charlotte's Web, Michael Sims shows how White solved what critic Clifton Fadiman once called "the standing problem of the juvenile-fantasy writer: how to find, not another Alice, but another rabbit hole" by mining the raw ore of his childhood friendship with animals in Mount Vernon, New York. translating his own passions and contradictions, delights and fears, into an al-time classic. Blending White's correspondence with the likes of Ursula Nordstrom, James Thurber, and Harold Ross, the E. B. White papers at Cornell, and the archives of HarperCollins and the New Yorker into his own elegant narrative, Sims brings to life the shy boy whose animal stories--real and imaginery--made him famous around the world.
Michael Sims is the author of the acclaimed Apollo's Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination, Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form, and editor of the recent Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories and The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime He lives in western Pennsylvania.
In his new book, The Story of Charlotte's Web, writer Michael Sims traces the life of E.B. White. From White's childhood in suburban New York and rural Maine, to his adult years as a New Yorker writer, Sims shows how White's experiences in nature shaped his classic novel. More at NPR.org
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"A fine stylist, Mr. Sims portrays these scenes with a beauty and an economy of language that would make the co-author of The Elements of Style proud."
"Thorough...clear, direct and concise...a lovely and empathetic testament to E.B. White's vision."
"The Story of Charlotte's Web is a paean to a great work and a window into the uniquely gifted man who created it."
"Sims offers an affectionate homage to E.B. White"
"An engaging, distilled, highly focused biography of White"
Built on revealing glimpses
"A really lovely book"
"Unpacks the appeal of Charlotte's Web"
"Goes back to Zuckerman's farm"
"A pocket biography"
"Beautifully written and researched, the book is well worth anyone's time"
An affectionate biography…Packed with the same kind of sensory detail its subject reveled in, this account is an honorable addition to the literature of letters.