A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - White Castle, and E. B. White

White Castle, by Orhan Pamuk:

This was the first Pamuk story I read, about a Venetian in the 17th Century, who is captured and taken to Constantinople. I read it in translation and loved the ideas, the words, the exploration of the clash of cultures.

Then I tried to read My Name Is Red in Turkish, and simply couldn't get into it. It sat in my To Read pile for months and months - until last December/January when I fell into it (in translation) and couldn't let go. Among the other narrators in the story, this one, as Paul Auster's Timbuktu (featured on 16 April), features a dog:

"I'm a dog, and because you humans are less rational beasts than I, you're telling yourselves, 'Dogs don't talk.' Nevertheless, you seem to believe a story in which corpses speak and characters use words they couldn't possible know. Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen."

Also, there's this quote about reading: "A letter doesn't communicate by words alone. A letter, just like a book, can be read by smelling it, touching it and fondling it. Thereby, intelligent folk will say, 'Go on then, read what the letter tells you!' whereas the dull-witted will say, 'Go on then, read what he's written!"

I'm looking forward to reading his books about Istanbul.

Meanwhile, where would we writers be without E. B. White? Setting aside The Elements of Style, though, let's look at Charlotte's Web:


Wilbur is pretty terrific, isn't he?

One of my favourite parts has always been Fern's mother's conversation with Dr Dorian about Fern and talking animals and miracles:


"'Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider's web?'

'Oh, no,' said Dr. Dorian. 'I don't understand it. But for that matter I don't understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.'

'What's miraculous about a spider's web?' said Mrs. Arable. 'I don't see why you say a web is a miracle - it's just a web.'

'Ever try to spin one?' asked Dr. Dorian.

Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair. 'No,' she replied. 'But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a sock.'

'Sure,' said the doctor. 'But somebody taught you, didn't they?'

'My mother taught me.'

'Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anybody. Don't you regard that as a miracle?'

'I suppose so,' said Mrs. Arable. 'I never looked at it that way before. Still, I don't understand how those words got into the web. I don't understand it, and I don't like what I can't understand.'

'None of us do,' said Dr. Dorian, sighing. 'I'm a doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything. But I don't understand everything, and I don't intend to let it worry me.'
Mrs. Arable fidgeted. 'Fern says the animals talk to each other. Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?'

'I never heard one say anything,' he replied. 'But that proves nothing. It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn't catch the remark because I wasn't paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the animals in
Zuckerman's barn talk, I'm quite ready to believe her. Perhaps if people talked less, animals would talk more.'"
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