Two times makes it a tradition.
I am reading Charlotte’s Web, the classic E. B. White children’s novel, to my kids for about the 10th time. I don’t know if it is the 10th time or not. After about four readings I lost track. Let’s just say it is as familiar to me now as any book I have ever read.
I mention this book today because tomorrow, September 7, is a significant day in the story. It is the day when Wilbur wins his medal, when he cajoles and bargains with Templeton to save Charlotte’s egg sac, and he leaves Charlotte alone, at the Fair, where she will die.
The book is 60 years old, the best-selling children’s book of all time (according to Wikipedia), and though I have now read it more times than I can keep track of, I do not tire of it. Garth Williams’ illustrations still amuse and enlighten. White’s prose still sparkles. I still cry at the end, which my children did not understand the first few times but they do now. Malcolm swears off bacon for a few weeks after each reading.
So I hereby declare September 7 to be Charlotte’s Web Day.
Here are some quotes I love.
“I was just thinking,” said the spider, “that people are very gullible.”
“What does ‘gullible’ mean?”
“Easy to fool,” said Charlotte.
“That’s a mercy,” replied Wilbur, and he lay down in the shade of his fence and went fast asleep.
“Have you heard about the words that appeared in the spider’s web?” asked Mrs. Arable nervously.
“Yes,” replied the doctor.
“Well, do you understand it?” asked Mrs. Arable.
“Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider’s web?”
“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”
The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year–the days when summer is changing into fall–the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.
“We can’t tell what may happen at the Fair Grounds. Somebody’s got to go along who knows how to write.”
As my friend Eric likes to quote:
It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.
Here’s to you, Charlotte.
Not a book but a short story in the latest issue of the New Yorker.
I usually like the fiction pieces in the NY but this particular story, in its surrealism, seemed to tell me a truth I already knew but had forgotten. I immediately sat down to google Stephen O’Connor (the author) to find out more. He sounds like a compelling person.
The religious nature of the story continues a recent trend in NY fiction. Last week’s story was also very compelling, a kind of Flannery O’Connor-esque morality tale. O’Connor. There’s another trend. I expect next week’s fiction piece to have an O’Connor connection as well.
Speaking of New Yorker threads, has anyone else noticed the subtle vocabulary threads in each issue, where a single uncommon word might appear in multiple pieces in the issue? The editors must enjoy finding those connections in their submissions.