Tuesday, 12 August 2014

My hero by Tanya Landman

Why do I like this letter so much?It was written by my hero,  EB.White,  to a man teetering on the brink of despair.

Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society – things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock,  for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White
Says it all. I have nothing to add.  Just an observation: sometimes children’s authors get dismissed by the literati as lesser mortals because we write ‘for kids’.  Because we tell a story with a beginning a middle and an end.  We make it look easy.  Simple. 

EB.White’s letter is so profound and yet  so clear  in its expression.  Despair, hope, evolution, morality, the very future of the planet and the human race  (even an allusion to Gone With the Wind!) – it’s all there in a few perfectly chosen, perfectly placed words.
As all those who write ‘for kids’ know: simplicity is the most complicated thing to create.


michelle lovric said...

What a wonderful letter. Also, the tribes of compassionate women range far and wide, so there is definitely hope! Thank you for sharing it.

Joan Lennon said...

Thank you for that.

Sue Purkiss said...

Very apposite, when there is so much to despair about at the moment in the world. Just one question - at the beginning should it be, 'contagion may NOT spread'?

Katherine Langrish said...

It is a lovely letter, Tanya. Sue, I read it as 'the contagion of compassion/hope' - perhaps?

Sue Purkiss said...

Oh, I see. Yes, that makes sense.

Mark Burgess said...

Lovely post, thank you. Sue & Katherine - my reading is 'contagion may spread but the scene is not desolate'.