So concludes E.B. White’s children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web. Indeed, Charlotte, the spider, changed people’s hearts and minds—and postponed Wilbur’s death—with just five words.
I’ve been ruminating on this ending, and it’s got me thinking: Is the good writer/true friend combination really a rare one? Is there something about being a good writer that makes you a lousy friend? Are good friends generally uninteresting writers?
I’ve been working on my next novel and, at the same time, paying attention to the books on my coffee table to try to figure out what keeps me hooked. Let me tell you, the most compelling writers are not very friendly. The authors keep secrets. They manipulate. Fairly often, they outright lie.
Imagine stopping by a friend’s house and announcing, “Your husband did something terrible. I need to tell you about it.”
“What did he do?” your friend asks, looking pale.
“We’ll talk later. I have an appointment for an MRI. I might have a brain tumor. I have to go.”
You run off. You actually have no reason to believe you have a brain tumor and you don’t have a doctor’s appointment. You go to your favorite coffee shop instead where you see your friend’s husband. You sit with him for a while and then send your friend a text, “Just had coffee and a long talk with that husband of yours. This keeps getting worse.”
She writes you back, “Why wasn’t he at work?”
You write that his hair looked limp, as if he hadn’t washed it in a while, and describe the way his glasses kept sliding down his nose. You tell her his hands shook while he drank his coffee. You describe the re-usable mug he drank from, and the sugar sediment you saw when he put the mug down on the table. You tell her he snuck some sips from a flask of something, too, and ask if he’s been drinking a lot of booze at home.
Before she can respond, you write, “He’s walking over to my car right now. He’ll freak out if he realizes I’m texting you. Gotta go.”
Your friend is going to keep checking her phone, waiting for you to text again or call.
Good writing? Maybe. Are you a good friend? No.
When writing, I tend to relieve tension too quickly and resolve conflict too soon. I’m working on changing that. In my writing I need to be less of a true friend and more of a jerk.
Come to think of it, Charlotte was a true friend to Wilbur, but not to the humans who read her words. She duped them. Wilbur wasn’t particularly radiant, nor was he remarkably humble. Wilbur was an ordinary pig, transformed by her words.
We all need true friends, but we need a few friends who keep us guessing, too. The ones who borrow library books or cross country skis and lose them, but invariably offer a good excuse, or show up two hours late for every dinner party, always with a great story about saving an injured goose or filling in for an Angelina Jolie impersonator at a Save Darfur fundraiser. You love having that friend around, even though you don’t believe most of what she tells you.
Actually, much of the time, you think some of what she claims may be true. You hope so. The world is a more interesting and important place through the eyes of that friend who is neither forthright nor reassuring. Your untrue friend, good writer.
Every time I see the Sherwin Williams logo, I wince.
Does the idea of covering the earth with paint actually appeal to anyone, anywhere? Mural artists, maybe.
People seem to love Sherwin Williams paint, though, and no one complains that the company is threatening to smother the planet. I haven’t heard concerns about a paint company, one that will come to your home to advice you on interior decorating, with an aesthetic that suggests a 1950s horror movie, either.
So, what do people like about this logo, besides for its vintage (could it be knowingly ironic?) consistency?
Here’s one unlikely theory: Maybe Sherwin Williams’ logo actually appeals to the urge to protect the earth. Sure, the logo shows a paint can dumping red on the globe, but the words suggest a blanket. Something protective.
Anyway, I’m not sure a coat of paint is any worse than a dense network of roads and highways, miles of garbage on land and sea, or carbon emissions, all covering the earth as we speak.
Maybe Sherwin Williams is a super-environmentalist company forcing the public to confront what we’re already doing.
Or maybe normal people just like the color red. They see the Sherwin Williams logo and think, “Red might be a cute color for my front hallway.”
Yep, normal people like Sherwin Williams. Bloggers, though, seem to share my inability to read a logo any way except literally.
Comment if you can demystify the appeal of this logo, please.
Click below to hear from others who would prefer not to cover the earth with paint: