Wednesday, February 06, 2019

capturing a reader

In the fifth chapter entitled The Audience of his book On Writing Well, William Zinsser writes these two sentences after quoting several paragraphs of writing by E.B. White on his appreciation of hens.

Now there's a man writing about a subject that I have absolutely no interest in. Yet I enjoy this piece thoroughly. 

Before he gave you three lengthy paragraphs from White's 1944 article The Hen (An Appreciation), he introduced them with these words.

Let's look at a few writers to see the sheer pleasure with which they put into paper their passions and their crotchets, not caring whether the reader shares them or not.

Zinsser knows that an article on hens is not something he would be interested in, yet he acknowledges that he enjoys the piece thoroughly.
What did White do to compel an admitted apathetic reader on the topic of hens to not only read his article but to enjoy it?
Zinsser names a few reasons why:
- the simple beauty of its style
- the rhythms, the unexpected but refreshing words
- the specific details about hens and the brooder house
- writer is sharing his unabashed love affair with poultry that goes back to 1907
- it is written with humanity and warmth
- and after three paragraphs, he knows quite a lot about what sort of man this hen-lover is

Do you want to know what E.B. White wrote that made Zinsser react in such a way?
I thought you would.
Here are the three paragraphs he quoted:

Chickens do not always enjoy an honorable position among city-bred people, although the egg, I notice, goes on and on. Right now the hen is in favor. The war has deified her and she is the darling of the home front, feted at conference tables, praised in every smoking car, her girlish ways and curious habits the topic of many an excited husbandryman to whom yesterday she was a stranger without honor or allure.
My own attachment to the hen dates from 1907, and I have been faithful to her in good times and bad. Ours has not always been an easy relationship to maintain. At first, as a boy in a carefully zoned suburb, I had neighbors and the police to recon with; my chickens had to be as closely guarded as an underground newspaper. Later, as a man in the country, I had my old friends in town to reckon with, most of whom regarded the hen as a comic prop straight out of vaudeville….Their scorn only increased my devotion to the hen. I remained loyal, as a man would to a bride whom his family received with open ridicule. Now it is my turn to wear the smile, as I listen to the enthusiastic cackling of urbanites, who have suddenly taken up the hen socially and who fill the air with their newfound ecstasy and knowledge and the relative charms of the New Hampshire Red and the Laced Wyandotte. You would think, from their nervous cries of wonder and praise, that the hen was hatched yesterday in the suburbs of New York, instead of in the remote past in the jungles of India.
To a man who keeps hens, all poultry lore is exciting and endlessly fascinating. Every spring I settle down with my farm journal and read, with the same glazed expression on my face, the age old story of how to prepare a brooder-house…

~ excerpt from E.B. White's essay collection entitled The Second Tree from the Corner published in 1944

What I see from E.B. White's writing in this example and in others I have shared before is that he captures human nature with all its foibles and fads and makes us laugh at ourselves and think, that is still true today. I think he was good at holding up a mirror to whatever topic he landed on and inviting us to look into it with him and say My, my, what funny creatures we are. 
How thankful we can be for writers like White who rouse us out of our expected comforts and narrow interests to show us the rest of the world in all its interesting magnificence.



*About this graphic seen above: In searching my blog for something related to this post, I came upon many posts that were based on book quotes. They were often shared as part of a blogging theme called "Wednesdays with Words" hosted by various bloggers back in the day.
In an effort to help my reading life be more fruitful, I have decided to do this again, whenever the mood strikes. I will share something from a reading and then tag it with the graphic above. I usually use the tag writing and literature in the footer of the posts if you are interested in past posts.

**Also William Zinnser's book On Writing Well was an assigned title for Seth for this year, Grade 10. We are continuing to use it for writing assignment ideas.

Friday, February 01, 2019

seasons

I posted a similar image to the one below this morning on my irregularly-used Instagram account discussing my plan for finishing the rest of winter in February and March with a good attitude. I mentioned that I was thinking of it as Winter Two, but unsure what it meant for me.
As I've thought of it over the last couple of days, I see this as a season for me to care more about the neglected and disheartened areas of my life. I cannot control the weather but I can push myself to not give into any sort of despair or discontent for the difficulties of life. Being outside in the sunshine, wandering around in God's creation is a great antidote for my self-centered thought life. So while I wait for more pleasant days to be outside, I am looking for ways to battle discontentment by caring and creating with dedicated intention not just drifting along with the calendar.
If you see more posts around here in the next few weeks, that maybe the results of some of my efforts to enjoy and thrive in Winter Two.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

frozen January and warm food

We weren't lacking snow or cold or wind earlier in January, but the last two weeks have shouted winter into our hat, hood and scarf covered ears. And in between the demoralizing, frost burn inducing moments, we kept an eye on the forecasted temperatures and the sudden snow squalls seen on the radar and looked for a sunny window to actually go out there and look around a bit. 
But since we are mostly hibernating creatures, much of our time as been spent indoors doing lesson work, organizing our house, making stuff and just playing around. 
Making hot and satisfying meals and treats helps me cope with such unforgiving weather so I have celebrated many foodstuffs with a photo despite my family's collective eye-rolling. And Flossy sleeps and sleeps and keeps an eye out the window and on the door always thinking the grass must be greener on the other side. Clearly it's not. But who can tell a cat anything?