Thursday, November 26, 2009

People are animals

New York is part of the natural world. I love the city, I love the country, and for the same reasons. The city is part of the country. When I had an apartment on East Forty-eighth Street, my backyard yielded more birds during the migratory season than I ever saw in Maine. I could step out on my porch, spring or fall, and there was the hermit thrush, picking around in McEvoy's yard. Or the white-throated sparrow, the brown thrasher, the jay, the kinglet. John Kieran has recorded the immense variety of flora and fauna within the limits of Greater New York.

But it is not just a question of birds and animals. The urban scene is a spectacle that fascinates me. People are animals, and the city is full of people in strange plumage, defending their territorial rights, digging for their supper.

— E.B. White, The Paris Review Interviews, IV.

I love this take on wildlife in the city. Being an urban animal myself, I often find myself in the position of having to defend my choice to live in the city against suburbanites. What they fail to see is how much more natural an environment it is than their cookie-cutter houses and manicured lawns.

(Full interview available.)

I finished reading one interview, but it wasn't my stop yet, so what to read next? The interview I was planning to read next is in another volume.

Well then why not a talk with the man behind the slim little volume I was consulting today? I spent my morning grappling with, for example, the nuance between "accord" and "afford," so I spent a portion of my afternoon with The Elements of Style, regaining some perspective.

I know nothing about E.B. White other than that I loved The Trumpet of the Swan when I was a kid, and, yeah, the other kids' books too. And I knew that he'd reworked the stylebook that is the beginning and end of all stylebooks.

The interview proves him to be a charming man, down to earth, matter-of-fact, realistic, sensible, perceptive. This comes as no surprise and as a wonderful reassurance.

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.


kimbofo said...

I love living in the city too. As fat as I'm concerned, living in the suburbs is simply taking one step closer to the coffin.

kimbofo said...

Woops, that should be as "far" not as "fat"!!

PS> Love the Elements of Style -- it has guided me through about two decades of essay writing, news story writing and sub-editing.

Bybee said...

I love E.B. White's elegy for his pig. It's so beautiful. I think I'll teach it!