Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book Review: E. B. White on Dogs (dogs, 20th century commentaries)

E. B. White on Dogs, ed. Martha White (Tilbury House Publishers, 178 pp, 2013, $22.95)

Right now you are probably asking yourself, “Who is EB White?”

Well, have you read (or watched) the wonderful Charlotte’s Web (1952 and Newbery winner)?

Or Stuart Little (1945)? Or were you required to purchase and perhaps use Strunk and White's little The Elements of Style (1959) in college? 
Have you read the “Talk of the Town” column in The New  Yorker magazine?

Yup, that EB White, Pulitzer Prize Citation and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.


Yup, dogs. Life with dogs, mainly in Maine, from 1929 through 1984, including photos and a drawing of a Dachshund going down a flight of stairs that appeared on White’s Christmas card in 1950.

E. B. White on Dogs is his granddaughter’s collection of 79 of White’s writings about his dogs – from Collies to Dachshunds to Labs to Westies to Scotties to Terriers to mongrel mixes (his words) and Setters in poems, essays, sketches, and letters.

White’s poems are the exceptionally cute, especially “Fashions in Dogs” and “Card of Thanks” (to cocker spaniels, on the floor-cleaning ability of their long ears).

The New Yorker Magazine and History

If you like The New Yorker writing style, you will love this book. You will chuckle at White’s dog Daisy who is called Whitey by their veterinarian, probably because Whitey is a black Scottish Terrier (or in honor of White’s last name, perhaps?).

“Daisy had been the sole attendant at my grandparents’ wedding in 1929. ‘It was a very nice wedding – nobody threw anything, and there was a dog fight.’” (page XI)

From “Dog Training”: “Some day [sic]. . . I shall write a book. . . on the character and temperament of the Dachshund and why he can’t be trained and shouldn’t be.” (p. 64)

In 1942, White writes about Abercrombie’s Dog Catalogue in which a dog collar costs $1.50 and a dog bed with a flea-proof cushion goes for $6.00.

A graduate of Cornell University, he, his wife and current dog spend the afternoon listening to the Cornell-Yale football game on a portable radio in 1942. White, a colleague of James Thurber, writes often of Thurber but also of Hitler and Khrushchev, so E. B. White on Dogs can serve as a historical commentary on the world in most of the 20th century.

For The New Yorker aficionado as well as the literary and children’s book lover who also loves dogs, this White book of White snippets might be just the perfect holiday gift from those who can’t find anything else to the person who has almost everything!

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