I thanked Mr. Henderson. I didn’t go right down to the pig, though. I sank into a chair and sat still for a few minutes to think about my troubles, and then I got up and went to the barn, catching up on some odds and ends that needed tending to. Unconsciously I held off, for an hour, the deed by which I would officially recognize the collapse of the performance of raising a pig; I wanted no interruption in the regularity of feeding, the steadiness of growth, the even succession of days. I wanted no interruption, wanted no oil, no deviation. I just wanted to keep on raising a pig, full meal after full meal, spring into summer into fall. I didn’t even know whether there were two ounces of castor oil on the place.
From E.B. White’s “Death of a Pig,” January 1948. Available in The Second Tree From the Corner. Go read the whole thing.
I adored this essay, and it’s hard to say precisely why. It has all the usual White stylistic virtues—it’s funny, precise, straightforward—but that’s not really it. Maybe it’s this, and you’ll have to allow me to make a strained connection: What White does here is retell his way of living. The reader probably cannot help but be charmed by it (I couldn’t). Compare this, stylistically, to that wretched irony essay in The New York Times last week, which prescribes a similar way of living but does it pompously, didactically, and dishonestly. The lesson, as far as I can tell, is that the writer should tell only the story he can, and then he should stay out of the reader’s way. But maybe that’s not it. I don’t know. Anyway. Maine.