May : E. B. White (Part One)

As an unabashed dog-lover, I have been reading E. B. White’s On Dogs, compiled by his granddaughter (consisting of anything he ever wrote about dogs), and giggling quite a bit. I never appreciated this side of the great author before, thinking of Charlotte’s Web, which, although great in its own way, I don’t remember having all the dry humor and cleverness of his writings for adults.

Inspired by this and trying my best to channel that dry funniness of his I admire, I wrote up this little thing, which may require some explanation for those not intimately familiar with the relations within the strings orchestra. I myself am a violist—not a very good one, but I love it, and I hope that counts for something. Lemony Snicket’s The Composer Is Dead is a good example of the realities of the orchestra and the opinions some sections hold concerning the others. His statement about the violas is poignant and true. I do not have the exact words, but the basic gist is: that the violas play all the boring parts to accompany the violins, that they stay afterwards to pick up chairs, that they mourn their fate.

While hesitant to volunteer any information about the first or third charge, I will say that Snicket was quite right with the second one. It is very, very true.

Anyway, here is my E. B. White-inspired writing:


It has come to the attention of the violas, through diligent observation, that they are, in many cases, grossly under-appreciated and represented. They are, first of all, curious to know the reason for the alarmingly high number of violins in the orchestra compared to the viola section. They have speculated amongst themselves and decided that this unfortunate fact is likely due to the public’s perception of the viola. Many less-informed citizens of this country know only of the violin, not its more pleasant cousin. This is clearly a serious issue of discrimination. When the less-informed, or perhaps more ambitious, American parent enrolls their child in an instrument, the violin has, in our culture, become the norm. It holds a double-threat—not only is it the most accepted “first instrument” in our society, it is also the path of the most ambitious and show-offy string-players. The violas find this deeply concerning (and would also like to inform the public that violas find their sound lovely enough not to have to show of with ridiculous pieces). They protest strongly to this strings status quo, and are drawing up more documents to help educate the public, as this has obviously been seriously neglected by a former and apparently apathetic generation of violas. They trust that, one day, violas can rule the world.

Signed, officially

The Violet Alliance, with ardent hopes to leave our children a world in a more agreeable register. 

~The basses will be writing their own appeal shortly, one they have mobilized sufficient numbers to do so.~

There have been readers under the false impression that “Violet Alliance” is a typo for “Viola Alliance”–I just want to put a word in that it is intentional: viola means “violet” in Latin, I liked it better than the dryer “Viola Alliance”.

What writing makes you laugh the most?


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