Sunday, July 11, 2010

Of Spiders and Mockingbirds

Today is the birthday of E. B. White, probably most famous for writing Charlotte's Web. I remember the shock I felt in grad school, when I realized that one of the guys who wrote the Strunk and White guide was the same White who wrote Charlotte's Web. I'm always impressed by people who can write equally well in different genres, and also by people who write well for both adults and children.

I adored Charlotte's Web. It's probably one of the first books I read over and over again. I loved that the characters pull together against great odds and develop interesting, non-violent ways of resisting their oppression. Of course, I wouldn't have used that language at that time.

Charlotte's Web is why I'm not afraid of spiders. I suspect it's also the reason that I've been drawn to vegetarianism my whole life, although you wouldn't know it by the way I've been eating this week, which saw several days in which I ate meat several times a day.

I haven't gone back to reread Charlotte's Web as an adult. I suspect it would hold up well and hold my interest as an adult reader too.

Today is also the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. I didn't read this book as a child; I read it the summer before 8th grade, the summer I turned 14, and it continues to entrance me. Two summers ago, I reread it, and it holds up well. I've heard tell of young reader today who sees the setting and the characters as totally unlike anything they've encountered, but I still know Southern people with an uncomfortable similarity to some of the uglier aspects of those characters. Even in this Internet age, there are still Southern towns that are sleepy throwbacks to an earlier time.

Somehow, I grew up without ever seeing the movie. I saw it during my last year of grad school. I came in one rainy Saturday to find my husband watching it on network T.V. I plunked myself down and was hooked instantly. I've watched it several times, and I always love it.

Maybe this afternoon I'll watch the movie again. Once again, I'll admire the pluckiness of Scout and admire the integrity of Atticus. I'll yearn for the explorations of my childhood. I'll wonder if any child these days can retain that level of innocence.

I wrote a poem that imagines Scout grown up. I won't post it today, since this post is long; I'll save it for a day this week when I don't have time to write as much. Plus, it's a somewhat depressing poem, and I don't want to post two depressing poems back to back.

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