Today is the last Friday of the month, the day of our library’s lunch hour reading program for adults, the Eleventh Stack Read Aloud. I am one of three librarians reading under the tent in Schenley Plaza while you munch your lunch.
Browsing through the library for a Read Aloud book to perk up your Friday, I thought of stories I fell in love with while listening to a teacher or parent read. It’s not surprising that children’s books came to mind, since reading aloud often involves children. An engaging article in this week’s issue of The New Yorker, “The Lion and the Mouse. The Battle That Reshaped Children’s Literature”, which concerns influential children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore and the writing of E. B. White’s first children’s book, Stuart Little, suggested a solution. I perused E. B. White’s writing for adults, finally choosing to read from a worn copy of One Man’s Meat.
One Man’s Meat is a 1944 collection containing essays first published in a column of the same name in Harper’s Magazine, as well as a few longer pieces from The New Yorker. “One Man’s Meat” (the “monthly piece” as White termed it) ran in Harper’s from 1938 to 1943. In an introductory essay in a reprinted edition, Roger Angell wrote, “One Man’s Meat is too personal for an almanac, too sophisticated for a domestic history, too funny and self-doubting for a literary journal. Perhaps it’s a primer: a countryman’s lessons that convey, at each reading, a sense of early morning clarity and possibility.”
I’ve chosen to read a longer piece dated May 1939, “The World of Tomorrow.” White explored the 1939 New York World’s Fair carrying a box of Kleenex. He wrote, “When you can’t breathe through your nose, Tomorrow seems strangely like the day before yesterday.” His report is funny, skeptical, prescient, sharp and clear.
Hope to see you from noon to one o’clock, across the street from CLP Main for story time. If not, you can make your own story time, anytime you’ve got a book and someone to read to.