Artist Maira Kalman’s whimsically illustrated version of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style was published last month, and now the situation is getting worse. Apparently a work of avant-garde musical theatre is in the works. Am I the only one who feels revolted by all of this?
My complaint is not that I consider the original text too sacred for interpretation. I have never worshipped at the temple of Strunk and White, though I will admit I can’t think of a better style guide for writers. My gripe is with the utter preciousness of Kalman’s artwork, which I’m sure violates E. B. White’s penchant for powerful subtlety and understatement. The man who gave the world a spider who spelled “radiant” in her web to save the life of a pig doesn’t need to be compromised by a painting of a sad-faced basset hound with enormous ears and big wet eyes. It’s just too damn cute, and cuteness kills.
As for the musical suite by a composer named Nico Muhly, I just listened to two samples and they didn’t help my writing one damn bit.
I don’t like to use the word “twee” when I’m insulting stuff, because to use the word “twee” is, more or less, twee. However, this stuff is twee. Anybody Strunkheads out there care to debate me on this point?