I have been on a big “rereading” kick for the last four months. I started the year with two dozen new volumes — novels, memoirs, nonfiction tomes, and poetry chapbooks — but since we moved, I have been unable to really enjoy another new book. Part of this arises from my recent intolerance for less than stellar fiction. But I think most of it stems from this general dissatisfaction I have with the limited nature of my own creative time.
In an attempt to soothe away my anxieties, I picked up the volume of One Man’s Meat that I bought this summer, after savoring every word of the essays in the spring. I started reading again, slowly, on the train yesterday morning, and on the second page of the introduction I fell into this paragraph:
Yet, sometime in the winter of 1938, or even before that, I became restless. I felt unhappy and cooped up. More and more my thoughts turned to Maine, where we owned a house with a barn attached. I don’t recall being disenchanted with New York — I loved New York. I was certainly not disenchanted with The New Yorker — I loved the magazine. If I was disenchanted at all, I was probably disenchanted with me. For one thing, I suspected that I was not writing quite the way I wanted to write, and sometimes I was oppressed by my weekly deadline. For another, in my job as commentator, I was stuck with the editorial “we,” a weasel word suggestive of corporate profundity or institutional consensus. I wanted to write as straight as possible, with no fuzziness.
- Introduction xii, E.B. White
“I am somehow disenchanted with me,” has been running through my mind for the last two days. In part, I’d like to wallow and say that “I’m profoundly disenchanted,” but that’s not true. It’s more of a light malaise. I’ll suss out what’s wrong inside my head in due course, just as I’ve done every other time I’ve been unimpressed with myself. In the meantime, expect me to drop pearls of White at his Whitest from time to time.