Granddaughter releases new E.B. White collection, presents at Left Bank Books

Apr 23, 2019
Photo by: Doug Bruns Martha White, E.B. White’s granddaughter and literary executor.

BELFAST — The public is warmly invited to celebrate the release of a new collection of E.B. White’s essays, letters and poems on democracy edited by Martha White, White’s granddaughter and literary executor, at Left Bank Books, 109 Church St., on Tuesday, May 7, at 7 p.m. – the day the book is released. White will talk about how she came to compile this collection of her grandfather’s writings, which is especially poignant given the current political climate, and how she found herself “steadied by his common sense and his calm wisdom.”

Reservations for the free talk and signing are strongly encouraged. Please email leftbank@myfairpoint.net or call 338-9009. If you can’t make the signing, the bookshop is happy to take your order and have your book(s) signed for later pick up or shipment. Ample parking is available on the street and in an adjacent public parking lot.

White says she’s sometimes asked what her grandfather might have thought of the current times. “It’s impossible to know,” she writes, “but the word ‘chagrinned’ comes to mind. I’m guessing he would have been disappointed at how slow we have been to stand up for democracy (and our fragile Earth), in the name of party loyalty or nationalism or any of the other excuses. The writer E. B. White (1899 – 1985) would have put the ‘grin’ back into chagrin, however. In 1953, when Senator Joseph McCarthy had stoked fears to a high pitch, and sensationalism and discredit were all the news, my grandfather wrote about ‘runaway loyalty-checking systems in the hands of a few men who… are not ideally equipped to handle the most delicate and dangerous job in the nation… A couple of these committeemen don’t know a fact from a bag of popcorn anyway.’”

Anchored by an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham, “On Democracy” offers much-needed historical context for today's state of the nation — and hope for the future of society. White was, of course, one of the country’s most eminent literary voices in the 20th century. Meacham writes that White was “especially gifted at evoking the universal through the exploration of the particular,” and did so with “grace and fluidity.”

Almost every page of “On Democracy” leaves the reader shaking his/her head at the almost eerie prescience evoked by White’s writings:

“These times are too edgy. It is obvious to everyone that the fuss about loyalty arises from fear of war with Russia, and from the natural feeling that we should clear our decks of doubtful characters. Well, I happen to believe that we can achieve reasonably clear decks if we continue to apply our civil rights and duties equally to all citizens, even to citizens of opposite believe. That may be a dangerous and false idea, but my holding it does not necessarily make me a dangerous and false man.”

“Democracy is destructible . . . .It can be destroyed by a single zealous man who holds aloft a freedom sign while quietly undermining all of freedom’s cherished institutions.”

White is a longtime contributing editor to Yankee Publishing and The Old Farmer's Almanac and also compiled two weekly columns for United Feature Syndicate for many years. Her articles, book reviews, short stories and essays have been published in The New York Times; The Boston Globe; Christian Science Monitor; Early American Life, Country Journal, Down East; Maine Boats Homes and Harbors, and numerous other national magazines and small presses.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Christine Dunkle can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 108; or arts@villagesoup.com.

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