TV on Monday: 2:40 pm EDT on ESPNEWS and 3 pm on Outside the Lines.
Between Then We Came to the End and The Magicians, I read the #13 book on the Radcliffe 100, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, which also appears at #63 on the Guardian 100. I’ve seen both the 1973 animated adaptation and the the 2006 live-action version – we own the latter on DVD and I’ve probably seen it in whole or in parts 50 times, as my daughter went through a phase where she wanted to “watch the pig” over and over again – but I don’t think I had ever read the book; if I did, it was when I was much, much younger.
The story is probably familiar to most of you – a spider and a pig form an unlikely friendship where the spider, Charlotte, comes up with an amazing plan to save the pig, Wilbur, from ending up the entree at Christmas dinner. Charlotte’s actions attract plenty of human interest, but it isn’t until her final web that she knows she’s saved Wilbur’s live, after which he has an opportunity to return the favor in some way by saving her egg sac.
What disturbed me most about the book was the discovery that the screenwriters behind the live-action movie had changed so much of the dialogue and story. In the book, the animals play a much smaller role, and there’s no horse or crows. Fern’s younger brother has more dialogue and is less of a brat, while Fern herself actually turns away from Wilbur when she develops a crush on a boy in her class – a fickle friendship that serves as a counterpoint to the friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte. When it’s clear that Charlotte’s plan has succeeded, Fern is more interested in getting more money to go on another ride with her new boy-toy. Templeton, the rat, isn’t quite so Steve Buscemi-like, with a little more personality and a little more interest in helping Charlotte. (A little, but not much.) And Wilbur is a lot less childlike in the book, with even a touch of sarcasm was wiped out in the film version.
But most of all, I was shocked by the book’s ending – Charlotte lives! How the hell could they change that?