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From October 1938 to March 1943, E. B. White contributed a column to Harper’s Magazine called One Man’s Meat, which he wrote from his farm in North Brooklin, on the coast of Maine. “I have been making my living by describing my antics with sheep and poultry,” he wrote in 1941, “to an audience which appears to be half envious, half contemptuous.” Many of the essays, which also touched upon World War II, nationalism, and a single world government, were published as a volume in 1942. One Man’s Meat went on to win the Limited Editions Club’s Gold Medal, awarded every three years to the book considered most likely to attain the stature of a classic, and was briefly banned by the Army.
Elwyn Brooks White was born in 1899, the prosperous second year of William McKinley’s presidency, in Mount Vernon, New York. “Pop was a golden man living in a golden age, doing it well,” he wrote to his brother Stanley in 1954, “and barely realizing that he was dumping six kids into an age of terror and destruction.”
In one of his earliest columns for Harper’s Magazine, White posited: “It must be a lot of fun to write for children—reasonably easy work, perhaps even important work.” His first children’s book, Stuart Little, was published in 1945, a year after he sought a doctor’s aid for having “mice in the subconscious”; Charlotte’s Web (1952) and The Trumpet of the Swan (1973) cemented his place in the canon. Soon after he ceased to write his monthly column for Harper’s Magazine, he complained of “sketchy health”: “I never realized nerves were so odd, but they are,” he wrote. “They are the oddest part of the body, no exceptions.”
Among his other works are the poetry collection The Lady is Cold (1929); a comic collaboration with James Thurber, Is Sex Necessary? Or, Why You Feel The Way You Do (1929); Here Is New York (1949), which The New Yorker deemed “the wittiest essay, and one of the most perceptive, ever done on the city”; and a revision of William Strunk, Jr.’s popular English-language style guide, The Elements of Style (1959). White received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, and in 1978 he won a Pulitzer Prize for “his letters, essays and the full body [of] his work.”
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”