Hey, Charlotte, about that thing you wrote last night …

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
March 11 2010 9:59 AM

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Hey, Charlotte, about that thing you wrote last night …

Charlotte's Web.

It's not as if I don't appreciate your efforts on my behalf. This must have taken all night, and it certainly looks beautiful up there, bedecked in morning dew and glistening. And—let's make this clear—I'm no writer. I could never do what you do. I simply am not literary. Il literate is more like it, except for one or two pork-related words I've picked up around the pen. So, please, don't take this the wrong way, but I have a few notes.

Do we really think "Some Pig" gets across the message we're trying to convey?

Maybe I just don't understand what you're going for—but, to me, it seems that "Some Pig" could be interpreted any number of ways, not all of which would achieve our stated goal of keeping me from being ground into breakfast patties. As a sentence fragment, it lacks a certain clarity. What if someone took your unattached clause and hitched it to the word have, as in the sentence, "Have some pig"? Or even, "Have some pig; it goes wonderfully with applesauce." You see my problem.

And even if it's read as a pro-pig statement, as is your intent, who's to say the assessment isn't flavor-related? For example: "This is some pig, and it will make some tasty baby-back ribs, particularly when smoked at low temperatures for several hours." Because if I'm that kind of "some pig," I can't see that being immortalized in prose has done me much good.

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That's a worst-case scenario, sure, but at best I fear your generous appraisal may be taken as mere statement of fact: i.e., "this pen has some pig in it." In which case the slipshod grammar reflects poorly on you, and I'm off to the abattoir.

I apologize if my criticism seems harsh—I know that ambiguity can be a powerful tool in the author's tool chest. I just wonder whether I wouldn't be better served by some prose that's less open to critical interpretation, like, "This is some pig of the kind that you should never kill and eat, instead reserving for it an honored place by your hearth, where it will be tended to by your daughter and occasionally given milk and/or honey." Or something like that. You can tinker with the wording.

Honestly, even if your marvelous—poetic—words are interpreted correctly, I'm not entirely convinced the farmer will pay them heed. While you're obviously a talented writer, a lovely spinner of webs, and an eater of smaller insects par excellence, you're not exactly known as a judge of hog's flesh. Mightn't the farmer just say to himself, Zuckerman, you could get a dollar a pound for this porcine specimen at market, or you could hold off, on the cryptic silken advice of this common barn spider, and decide to opt for the cash in hand? Why should he take business counsel from an arachnid, especially in this economy?

Look, as I've said, I'm no wordsmith. Even if I had the vocabulary, I lack your natural gift—your ability to spin a tale, as it were. It's not as if these hooves were built to clutch a ballpoint. Perhaps my dissatisfaction is my own fault. My romantic ideas about the artistic process kept me from voicing these reservations earlier. I just wasn't meant to see "how the sausage is made." That said, I would prefer not to be the sausage.

So if you could stand writing another note, maybe we'd be best off with something like, "Hello, this is God, contacting you through the medium of a spider web. Why a spider web? Because I work in mysterious ways. Do not question me. Also, please do not slaughter this pig, for he is blessed in my sight. Amen." Bingo-bango. Instant authority. Divine intervention trumps our spider credibility problem, and everything is solved. I doubt the farmer would be willing to risk a potential blight of locusts over the fate of a single pig.

Is that message too much for you to write? I don't mean to tax your web-spinning abilities. I'm not sure how much silk you're able to generate, and, frankly, I was embarrassed to ask, because I'm not up on my spider anatomy. I wasn't sure whether it involves your … private bits and pieces.

Oh, "spinnerets"? Really? And silk glands? Well, that's just terrific.

Listen, it's getting close to morning, so honestly, whatever you could knock out, along the lines I've specified, would be just fine. You'd know how to edit and shape it better than I. I'm just the ideas pig. You're the artist. Although, if you're looking for a good manual on how to get your message across—clearly—in the fewest words possible, I'm given to understand that Strunk and White's The Elements of Styleis the gold standard for that sort of thing. Just a tip.

Soooooo … you're going to write what I asked you to? In your own words, of course, but basically what I outlined? Fantastic.

Wait a minute, I recognize that word. Why are you writing bacon?

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