Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Giving the pig a happy ending

The upcoming Charlotte's Web movie is engendering the usual publishing spawn; just arrived in our office is Some Pig!: A Charlotte's Web Picture Book. The bucolic illustrations are by Maggie Keen; the text is E. B. White's complete second chapter from Charlotte's Web, "Wilbur."

I guess you just have to think of it as a souvenir. (Like this.) The title will only mean something to someone who's read the book or seen the movie, and the uninitiated may also be perplexed by the opening spread ("Fern loved Wilbur more than anything") with its picture of a girl sitting on the kitchen floor cuddling a pig. But while I imagine kids would enjoy this scenario too much to worry about how the pig got there in the first place, I don't know what they're going to make of the conclusion: "The next day, Wilbur was taken from his home under the apple tree and went to live in a manure pile in the cellar of Zuckerman's barn." The. End.

Through the strategic employment of lemony sun-dappling and manure that looks like the softest grass, Keen does her best to make this scene look happy, but she can't disguise the fact that the line she's illustrating is not an ending but a beginning. This why you have to be careful when messing with the classics--it's not because they're holy, but because they'll go on strike: they won't work.

20 comments:

Lynn said...

Sadly, the reason why they are messing with the classics appears to be commercial in nature (money, money, money) and making them work is a secondary concern.

Melinda said...

Roger that, good buddy.

I saw the "Some Pig" pb too, just the other day at the bookstore. I should have grabbed the original and compared texts, because I felt like they'd cut a few words. But then again, I was looking for a reason to complain.

I did see the work-for-hire books also, which "quickly demonstrated the broncolike ability of the English language to throw whoever leaps cocksurely into the saddle," to quote the Boss.

rindawriter said...

Yes, I can't handle much "messing" from other people with the classics. I can take certain tiny amounts of SLIGHTLY "messed" up books so long as I have the originals equally available to me. I prefer to have words direct from writers. Which is a sadness sometimes when I consider how few books in other languages I'll ever get to appreciate IN those languages.

Publishers! Let readers alone to do their own private "messing 'round," with books...thank you!

Melinda said...

Oh, and just so you know, my kid has *already* seen the trailer for that Charlotte movie at daycare. She told me the book was scary because in the trailer, the horse fainted when he saw the spider.

*head::keyboard*

Anonymous said...

I don't see that what they are doing is any different from what you are doing with your constant dissecting and ranking of books, using a succession of books (as in the post above) to decide how you feel about this book, as if books only exist in reference to each other. It is all just a way of making the books your own and in many ways your way is much more peculiar than the picture book maker's. None of them have anything to do with the book as it really it.

Melinda said...

Hey, who you calling *peculiar*? And how did you know I was peculiar? Oh, yeah, I write peculiar stuff, that would do it.

Well, if I understand you correctly, there is a difference. The guys in Hollywood make a great big heaping pile of money for hijacking a popular book and turning it into tripe. Me, I don't earn a red cent unless I turn the sofa cushions over, and technically that's my husband's money.

"None of them have anything to do with the book as it really is."

If you want to get into semantics, then you're correct. Though may I gently add that the pictures I see in my mind when reading "Charlotte" are a heck of a lot closer to what the author wanted than the pictures that you'll see if you go to that movie.

Just my (husband's) two cents.

Melinda said...
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Melinda said...
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Melinda said...
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Anonymous said...

Well, if you don't think there are whole livings to be made by the peculiar profession of book talk then may I ask where you think the money is coming from for this blog? I don't differentiate between the money the picture book makers are after and the money the blog makers are after. I don't doubt that one thinks their intentions are pure and the other knows they are not, but it hardly matters. They both want to put their imprimateur on a book/books. I'm just saying it's all the same even if one is more commerically oriented. And as for what the author wanted, how do you know? He's dead. But more to the point, whether or not he cares for the pictures doesn't really speak to the point of my post. It's the desire to take possession of something which you did not create whether through judgement or regurgitation that is of interest.

Anonymous said...

And Melinda, I wasn't addressing you at any time. I guess because my post was after yours, it appeared that way to you.

Roger Sutton said...

Welcome back, Anon. You've said all this before--a plea for reading to be some kind of Rousseauvian pleasure unimpeded by judgement coupled with a gratuitous slap at me--and it's starting to remind me of a scene in The Group. No, not that scene, but the one where Lakey and Norine fight about "the spirit of the apples." It ends in tears.

Anonymous said...

Why are all your critiques or pensees justifiable and all of mine gratuitous. Now you've really hurt my feelings. I'm taking my bat and ball and going home.

Anonymous said...

Besides, I might point out that you always do this, you always accuse me of simply wanting to take gratuitous swipes when there's something you dont want to look at, but I think the need to take possesion of something, (books) to make it your own even if you love it to death like Steinbeck's Lenny is an interesting impulse. That was the point of the post and you didn't address THAT in your rush to take gratuituous swipes at me. I expect better from you, Evil Nemesis.

Roger Sutton said...

I guess I didn't see that as your point, o Dark Mistress, and it *is* an interesting one. But I see the "possession" of a book as a good thing, an expression of passion. Elizabeth had to explain the Mice and Men allusion to me as I haven't read it (bows head in shame), but I don't think loving a book to death kills it. I think, not to get Tristan and Isolde about it, that it can bring a book to life.

P.S. to all: I don't know if you can see that string of deleted postings above, but it was only because Melinda's began scarily replicating itself. I guess I do need to switch to the new blogger.

Melinda said...

Oh no! I am sorry, and so embarrassed! The Blogger wouldn't accept my post and I got mad at it!

Hey Anon, it's cool. Just so you know the blogs are free, else I never would have gotten my own! (In fact I got two.) Authors and editors generally get blogs for a little extra attention; I just like shooting off my mouth everywhere.

And E.B. White has written a ton of letters (available in The Letters of E.B. White -- there's an updated version available now that I still need to look at) expressing his views on Hollywood messing up his books. He finally caved to Hollywood in about '76, when I think he needed to get a little extra dough for doctor visits and hospital trips. But he wasn't too thrilled with even that version either.

And when you make a book your own, or an author your own (sounds weird but it's true), you get all crazy passionate about it. Can't be helped.

Anonymous said...

Well, let me explain my thought processes. It's not that I don't think passion for books is good, it's that I read the two blogs, the anti charlotte's web ruination and then the one on changing opinions based on what else one has read that year and how E.N. said for classics, when you mess with them, the book doesn't show up and I thought, yes, exactly, but it doesn't show up when you start this kind of obsessive opining about them either and referencing them against other books. its not that opinions are bad, its the obsessive spinning in it that you sometimes get into, E.N. taht I think is unworthy. Whether its a lynching or a party, the guest of honor doesn't show. However, in thinking about this it got me to thinking about how charlottes web is going to be ruined for a whole generation the way mary poppins was and how mary poppins is now used as a sort of adj for a pollyanna saccharine sort when in fact the thng that kids love about it is that mary poppins in the books doesnt care a fig for the kids, they are in the care of someone who has little regard for them at all and what kids love aobut this is that it is something they already know about the world, that someone has come out with a truthful portrayal. Not that its good or bad or indifferent but that edgy reality is what really is for any kid who has ever had a babysitter or ventured out of the house. And its what I remember loving about the books and I saw the movie after and was appalled. Mary poppins had the childrens best interest at heart. No no no, all the magic of the book was gone. This is just an extra which shows i can get drawn into book think and talk too but Im still not going to make mary poppins run a race, with say, the great books of the century or something to see who would win. Or change my opinion based on better books being published that year.

Anonymous said...

And Melinda, and EN, I think there are a multitude of reasons for loving something to death, even books. Sometimes it is passion and desire to be with the loved thing and sometimes the motivation is to simply pull things under the rule of one's domain. I bet everyone who made charlottes web will tell you how much they loved it and look what they did to it. I think you are passionate, EN. I'm passionate too. It accounts for the ire in our disagreements but the difference is that you are always passionately wrong and I am always passionately right. HAHAHAHA.

JeanneB said...

To Anonymous -- Seems to me that Roger is justified in accusing you of gratuitous comments. Here's a quote from you back in June: "Sometimes [my comments] are there just to stir the pot to see what rises to the light. And I am here to play. If I were to post with a name I would have to edit my remarks and be willing to stand by them and I could not play."

I'm just sayin'....

Anonymous said...

Jeannen, I think you misunderstand both what I said and what Roger said. What I meant was that it is interesting to explore ideas and different viewpoints with the ultimate aim of getting to some new understanding. There is nothing malicious intended in this. On the contrary. Fiction serves this purpose. Not to explain but to explore. Not to voice a well thought out opinion but rather to go down the road into the fog willing to see only as far as the headlights go and take different avenues when they come up. This to me should be one of the more interesting features of a good blog. What I think Roger thinks is that I come on periodically just to attack without context for the sake of attacking him which is nonsense, of course. I think he's swell even when I disagree. But there are so few people who bother t come on if they disagree that I suppose my voice of dissent sounds particularly disagreeable. However, as I point out to him, it's no more vociferous than his own.