“You notice the great, strange world!”

James Peach

“A real violin!” the Old-Green-Grasshopper cried. “Good heavens, I like that! My dear boy, I am a real violin! It is a part of my own body!”

“But do all grasshoppers play their music on violins, the same way as you do?” James asked him.

“No,” he answered, “not all. If you want to know, I happend to be a ‘short-horned’ grasshopper. I have two short feelers coming out of my head. Can you see them? There they are. They are quite short, aren’t they? That’s why they call me a ‘short-horn’. And we ‘short-horns’ are the only ones who play our music in the violin style, using a bow. My ‘long-horned’ relatives, the ones who have long, curvy feelers coming out of their heads, make their music siply by rubbing the edges of their two top wings together. They are not violinists, they are wing-rubbers. And a rather inverior noise these wing-rubbers produce, too, if I may say so. It sounds more like a banjo than a fiddle.”

“How fascinating this all is!” cried James. “And to think that up until now I had never even wondered how a grasshopper made his sounds.”

“My dear young fellow,” the Old-Green-Grasshopper said gently, “there are a whole lot of things in this world of ours that you haven’t started wondering about yet. Where, for example, do you think that I keep my ears?”

“You ears? Why, in your head, of course.”

Everyone burst out laughing.

James and the Giant Peach (1961), Chapter 24, by Roald Dahl.


The best compliment anyone ever gave me for my writing was when, in a short story I had written about a friend from school, I had described the image of February tree branches seen from below against an overcast Ohio cemetary sky. The best teacher I ever had, whose name I adopted for this blog, read it and said, “…and—how strange—you notice the great, strange world!” Another time he sent me a passage that had arrested his attention, from a book, a biography, about a boy noticing the grass in his mother’s front yard, and all the moving things among which it stood. The anniversary of his death is coming soon.

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being my gadfly. May they rest in peace.


About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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