To the Editor:
Re “Liz Phair’s Exile in Avril-ville” by Meghan O’Rourke [June 22]:
Once upon a time there was a writer named Chicken Little. Chicken Little worked very hard and took her job very seriously. Often, she even wrote. One day, just as Chicken Little was about to have an idea, she heard something falling on her roof. “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” she shrieked, spilling green tea and vodka all over her work station. This commotion awoke her three readers, who lived with her in her hut, and all three rushed outside to see what had happened to the sky. After enduring several anxious minutes alone, Chicken Little was relieved to see her readers return. “Oh, Chicken Little, it was just the trees dropping their buds on a beautiful spring day,” they said. Chicken Little tried not to show her disappointment.
Not long after, as Chicken Little was poring over some back issues of other writers’ material, she felt another idea about to form in her mind. “Truth… no… Lies… no… ummm… ummm… Conspiracy!” She was just about to write this down, when a great clattering and scraping began above her head. Clutching her PC to her breast, she swung her head wildly to and fro. “The sky is falling! This time, the sky is falling! The sky is falling!” She meant to alert her readers. She felt very responsible for them. They played outdoors, mostly, and had very open minds. The three readers rushed back into the hut, very concerned, and when they saw the look of dread on Chicken Little’s sweet face and her finger pointing skyward, trembling, they immediately turned around and rushed back out to see what was the matter. For a few breathless moments, they could neither confirm nor deny, then they all saw the same thing at once. “Chicken Little,” said the readers, “it’s only two squirrels chasing each other in amorous conquest, skittering over the eave of our house.” “It’s quite funny, actually,” added one of the readers, “you should come and see.” But Chicken Little was annoyed. “I have work to do!” she fumed. “Besides, I wasn’t speaking to you. I was performing a haiku,” she fibbed, faxing something.
Well, time passed, and the readers grew, and so did Chicken Little, but not very much. The light inside the hut was dim, and she worked in a huddled position for long hours. She grew paranoid. She began to think she wasn’t sure anymore. She began to fear she didn’t know. Then, just as her resolve was nearly wiped away clean, she heard a sound that was not very loud. She cocked her head from side to side, her little neck pouch jiggling, and pecked at a few pebbles lying around her desk. Yes, the sound was definitely there. In fact, it was coming from all sides now, the sound of a million tiny things dropping on her roof. She peeked out her window and saw a million tiny things dropping from the sky. All her chicken senses gathered in supreme vindication. She opened her throat as wide as it would go and crowed, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling! By God, any moron can see the sky is falling!”
The peacefully sleeping readers were aroused, but did not pay attention anymore, so used to her hysteria were they by now that her crowing became one more familiar noise in the chattering nighttime forest.
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Chicken Little screeched, terrified they would not heed her and would be found the next morning, buried among the intellectual debris. She pecked and pecked at them with her sharp little beak until they finally agreed to be awakened. The three readers rose up and shuffled outside to be greeted by a warm, summer rain falling steady as a heartbeat, wondrous and quiet as unexpected relief from pain. “Why, Chicken Little,” said one reader, “it’s only a summer shower come to feed the land. It feels great!” Chicken Little cowered in the corner as a fork of lightning licked the trees. “It’s dangerous!” she cried, “you could slip on the wetness! You could catch a nasty cold! You could get electrocuted!” The three readers laughed, and went back out to experience the mystery of the storm, without thinking, without deconstructing, without checking what the other would do first. “Listen to me! Listen to me!” cried Chicken Little, as she watched their backs turn. The three readers stopped at the door and called out before leaving: “C’mon, Chicken Little. Hurry up, you’re gonna miss it!”
Manhattan Beach, Calif.
The above was a letter to the editor that Liz submitted to The New York Times in response to Meghan O’Rourke’s review of Liz’s 2003 album, Liz Phair. The letter was published on June 29, 2003.