E. B. White's robust essays are back in print; One Man's Meat, by E.B. White. New York: Harper & Row. 279 pp. $14.95.
Published seven times previously, this book is a collection of 55 short essays written between 1938 and 1943. They present on one level a literal record of White's life during those years: his exodus from New York and his adjustment to living in the country. With intellect, insight, humor, and wit White shapes the raw material of his experience into something that illuminates and enlightens, and is never heavy-handed or dogmatic.
The reader will discover White's openness to life and his sense of discovery, a spirit that is both contagious and energizing, sensitive and robust, challenging the reader to see the world in new ways.
White finds nothing in life merely mundane. His gift is to see big truths in ordinary things - Ferris wheels, a country school, a chicken coop, a remembered vacation. He has a poet's ability to penetrate beyond these things, relaying what he finds, as if speaking to you at twilight on his front porch.
In ''Progress and Change'' and ''The World of Tomorrow'' he pokes subtle fun at technology and its role in our lives. ''The Flocks We Watch by Night,'' one of his most disturbing essays, seeks to explain the madness of war to a child.
My favorite in this collection is ''Freedom.'' Written in wartime to those who urged submission to fascism, it encapsulates White's passion for liberty and his willingness to oppose its detractors. He writes: ''The least a man can do at such times is to declare himself - and tell where he stands.'' In this collection E.B. White has declared himself in words that will live on.