Book Club: Charlotte’s Web

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” (Goals, you know?)

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There are rare perfect sentences that catch like a light on glass. Rarer, still, are perfect passages. Rarest of all, are perfect books; and Charlotte’s Web is one.

I wish I remembered reading the book as a child. I did, of course; I am a person who was young in this country in the last sixty-odd years. There is, most definitely, a hardback procured c. 1994, deep in my parents’ attic. For whatever reason, though, I don’t. I have no recollection of when and where I read it—or was read it, and by whom. I remember the cover (Who wouldn’t? Those eyes!). But beyond a lingering vegetarianism, I can’t for the life of me tell you of the impression it left.

So many years later, in graduate school, a class* brought me back to the story; and it was then that White’s words became something indelible. That I felt their weight—as narrative, and meaning—and carried it with me. Each one gracefully plain, but together weaving this scintillant web.

Id est, all of the tears.

A few weeks ago, I found a new edition at the lovely Diane’s in Greenwich, and brought it home. In her introduction, Kate DiCamillo (insert: heart-eyes) describes coming late to the book at age thirty-one, when a teacher urged: read this, if you wish to be a writer. Yes; agreed.

There’s no reason for synopsis here. Whoever you are, you know that there is Wilbur and Charlotte and Fern. That there is a pig who is loved, and saved. I won’t get into all that.

What I simply want to say, is: (re-)read it. If you must drive to the store for a copy, go and invest. If there is one in your home right now, all the better. Charlotte’s Web is something rare. It is a window and a mirror, both. It is a book for readers and writers, and children and “grown-ups”; and in its disquieting-comforting-generous-true portrayal of what it is to live in—and with—this world, it is nothing less than a miracle. And it’s the season for those, after all.

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*Whose syllabus, of a few years later, can be found here.