So yesterday I was left with a thought that escaped me, leaving only a visual setting for that thought, which didn't help me at all (take that, Matteo Ricci). Today I remembered what I had been thinking!
It was about "Charlotte's Web."
I have been listening to an audiobook of Charlotte's Web as read by the author, E.B. White. If you are at all an aficionado of audiobooks, run out and lay your hands on this one, because White has one of the best reading voices ever. It reminds me of my New England farm-town childhood, but it also reminds me of a few other things.
I realize how rich White's vocabulary was. Templeton the rat says "I am a glutton, not a merrymaker." Wilbur says "I didn't mean to be objectionable." Charlotte herself comes on the scene with "Salutations!" I remember loving all those words, indeed, learning to love them, like a box full of chocolates with different centers: sopping, bough, interlude. But I also learned to love the specialized, slightly archaic vocabulary of English agriculture: gander, broadcast, silage, mulch.
I also find that I no longer want to be Fern. That is, I hear the story now, still with Fern and Wilbur at its center, a little girl and a little boy (pig); but I find I identify much more with the Arables and the Zuckermans, despite their good-natured blindness to the wonders that go on in the barn. Their obvious love for Fern and Avery seems the dominant note of the opening chapter of the book. I think I am reading Charlotte's Web as a parent, rather than as a child. The fact that I am not (yet) a parent does not seem to deter this reading one bit.