The Help Desk: Does whatever a spider can

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

Have you read Iris Murdoch’s book Bruno’s Dream? It’s about a man who’s obsessed with spiders. Here’s a sample quote: “O spiders, spiders, spiders, the aristocrats of the creepy crawly world. I never ceased to love you, but I somehow betrayed you from the start.” I read it and thought of you and your spider friends the whole time. Just thought you might like to know.

Angela, Allentown

Dear Angela,

No I have not read it, thank you for the recommendation! Have you read this interesting article on scientists teaching a spider named Kim to jump on command? While I applaud their efforts, I’ve been training up a team of spiders for the amateur circus circuit this summer (coming to a truck stop near you!), so I’m not that impressed that they taught one to jump. It’s true spiders only eat about once a week but those thirsty motherfuckers will do backflips for a strong lime rickey just about every night. And just try fitting them in spandex singlets – Jesus Christ. If that isn’t a science I don’t know what is.