E.B. White’s Essay ‘Here Is New York’ Is Almost 70 Years … – Bustle

Eb white this is new york

Much has been written about New York City. It’s the timeless backdrop for romantic comedies and financial thrillers, the source of Harlem Renaissance poetry, and meandering Brooklyn-set web series. an endless sea of ​​books, movies, and blogs have poured out their opinions on the city, each one as contradictory and definitive as the last (it’s overrated, lonely, overcrowded, beautiful, dirty, loud, magnificent, and the damn trains don’t run). but if there is an apotheosis of scripture over the apotheosis of cities, it has to be e.b. white’s aptly titled essay-turned-book here is new york.

e.b. white is best known today for his children’s books, charlotte’s web, stuart little, and the swan’s trumpet, or for his writing style guide, the elements of style (he is the “white” in “strunk & white”). He was also an essayist for The New Yorker and other publications for over fifty years, and “Here’s New York” might be his most celebrated essay. It is an easy walk through the streets of Manhattan, the quintessential love letter to New York and New Yorkers. and, despite being published in 1948, it might be one of the most disturbing pieces of post-9/11 literature ever written.

New York has changed since 1949, of course. America has changed. but reading “here is new york” today, it’s impossible to shake the vague feeling that e.b. white was something of an oracle, knowing precisely which parts of the city would prosper, which would disappear, and what it would feel like to live in new york in 2018, under the existential threat of war.

here is new york by e.b. white, $13, amazon

white’s essay begins by going straight to the heart of the new york character:

It’s not that simple, of course. White understands that New York is made up of a web of neighborhoods, interwoven pockets of community, and that New Yorkers aren’t really the ruthless creatures slow-walking tourists might see them to be.

At the same time, however, White revels in New York’s ability to house several million people and maintain an air of perfect solitude. There’s spectacle and excitement if one wants spectacle and excitement, but every event is optional (with the exception, according to White, of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which “hits every New Yorker over the head”).

He also understands that there is not just one New York, but several different cities that overlap, depending on who is looking:

all of these conflicting new yorks manage to merge and coexist, however, in a city that “has been forced to expand skyward due to the absence of any other direction in which to grow”. this crowded profusion of different lives and cultures only adds to the city, in white’s opinion:

For all his enthusiasm for New York poetry, however, White admits that the city can impart “a feeling of great neglect or neglect,” which can often be “uncomfortable and inconvenient” . But, as he says, “New Yorkers by nature don’t crave comfort and convenience; if they did, they’d live somewhere else.”

after all, “the city compensates for its dangers and shortcomings by providing its citizens with massive doses of a supplemental vitamin: the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, powerful and incomparable”.

and then there are the last two pages of the essay.

white was writing about new york after world war ii, after the introduction of the atomic bomb. but his words land squarely in the guts of any New Yorker who lived through 9/11, and any American currently living under a president willing to make nuclear war the subject of angry tweets.

Blanco does not want to comfort his reader or ensure the eternal safety of New York. he is not interested in wringing his hands or instilling fear. Just try to make sense of the fear. it is here to remind us of the things that need to be protected in times of political turmoil. turning against each other is not an option for a city built on coexistence.

finally, white compresses his own fear, the fear of new york, the fear of the world, in a last paragraph:

From across the gulf of history, writing in 1940s New York, he manages to capture the mix of hope and terror that accompanies life in any city today.

here is new york by e.b. white, $13, amazon

Related Articles

Back to top button