‘The Door’ by E.B. White

White, E.B. 1939

The Door by E.B. White, 1939

The magic trick:

Ace use of parentheses

It’s not often you find E.B. White compared to Slick Rick, but here goes. Slick Rick, especially on his 1988 classic album The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, mastered a rap style in which he would record multiple takes of his verses and then play back different ones panned in different places, left to right, across the audio spectrum. The result was that he often sounded like two, sometimes even three or four, different people rapping back and forth at each other.

E.B. White in “The Door” creates the same effect, using parentheses in nearly every sentence. The reader seems to be getting a duet of words – the omniscient narrator’s presentation of reality, countered quickly by an alternate reality that seems to exist in some parallel world.

The effect is jarring and positively inspiring. I find that reading this story makes me instantly want to start writing. And that’s quite a trick by White (and Slick Rick).

The selection:

Everything (he kept saying) is something it isn’t. And everybody is always somewhere else. Maybe it was the city, being in the city, that made him feel how queer everything was and that it was something else. Maybe (he kept thinking) it was the names of the things. The names were tex and frequently koid. Or they were flex and oid, or they were duroid (sani) or flexsan (duro), but everything was glass (but not quite glass) and the thing that you touched (the surface, washable, crease-resistant) was rubber, only it wasn’t quite rubber and you didn’t quite touch it but almost.

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