Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An (Anti) Ode to Dr. Suess

Apparently I've been living under a rock for the last forty years. 

But in my defense, I would like to point out before I get started here, that the man was dead by the time I was...

(let me consult Wikipedia real quick)



I thought he died before I was born.


Turns out Dr. Seuss--the one behind Thing One and Thing Two--was all pseudo subversive, using some of his books as allegories for his thoughts on the political and cultural climate of his time. Look, the picture circulating the net right now totally proves it:* 

I had no idea! In fact, when I think of Dr. Seuss, only a few of his books come to mind: 

Green Eggs and Ham (one of The Boy's two favorites)
The Foot Book (Left foot, left foot, left foot, right. Feet in the morning, feet at night!)
Dr. Seuss's ABCs (Probably my favorite. I can recite it almost verbatim from memory--go ahead, throw a letter at me. FACT: We used this book as inspiration for naming the last three cats in my house: Waldo Woo <AKA Old Angry Cat>, Young Yolanda Yorgenson, and Lola. She got hit by a car two weeks after I had her spayed.  I'm still bitter.) 
The Cat in the Hat 
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back 
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? (Mr. Brown is a wonder! Mr. Brown makes thunder!)
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (one of Libby's two favorites)
If I Ran the Zoo
There's a Wocket in My Pocket 
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

There are a lot more, of course. 

Honestly, I never looked past the basic plot for any kind of message that wasn't blatantly obvious. The Grinch is a curmudgeon. It's because he lives by himself in that cold cave way up there. But singing makes him happy. Green Eggs = no one likes a nag. On the other hand, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. And by the way, don't knock it till you try it. ABC's = Dr. Seuss was really good at making things up (e.g. Tuttle Tuttle Tree). The Cat = don't let large, talking animals donning red-and-white-striped hats into your house. Ever. 

In my defense for being so obtuse, to this day I've never read Horton and honestly had never heard of The Lorax, Butter, or Sneetches until I started writing this blog entry.** I wasn't a political science major either, obviously, so I was never forced to write comparative essays about his works in college. 

Moving on. 

Educators the country over revere him and schools from coast to coast have week-long curricula that focus on his books. Of course there are educational video games and websites centered on his works. Naturally he has his own site. 

But the culture at large continues to love him as well. In the last decade Hollywood released four movies based on his books (Grinch, Horton, Cat and Lorax coming soon) and the original animated Grinch Christmas special rotates in on the television schedule every December, as it has for the past 40 years. There's even a Broadway play based on Horton's troubles. The critics didn't think much of the original production, but a re-vamped script is now a staple for community theaters nation-wide. I'm seeing it at the University in April. It's called Seussical The Musical. Cute, huh? (*cough* I have the soundtrack. Libby MADE me buy it.)  Just google his name and the accessories available for purchase will overwhelm you. How many Cat in the Hats knock on your door every Halloween?   

But here's my take on Dr. Seuss, for all his educating our children and making us feel warm and fuzzy with his anecdotes: the man had sadistic tendencies.  

Exhibit A: If I Ran The Circus

Have you ever read that one? 

Out loud? 

Daily for nearly a decade?  

If ever I were to burn a book, If I Ran The Circus would be it.  

I fucking hate that book.  


In theme, it's nothing more than an updated version of To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street: a child's imagination on overdrive.
Except it's much longer than the original, and those extra pages will suck the life out of you.   

A taste: 
Then I'll let Sneelock off for a few minute's rest  
While high over your heads you will see the best best
Of the world's finest, fanciest breezy trapeezing! 
My Zoom-a-Zoop Troupe from West Upper Ben-Deezing
Who never quite know, while they zoop and they zoom, 
Whether which will catch what one, or who will catch whom
Or if who will catch which by the what and just where, 
Or just when and just how in which part of the air.  

Olympic-level verbal acrobatics, that's what that nonsense is. 

Don't believe me?  Read the excerpt out loud and see how your mouth reacts.  

Go ahead, I'll wait.



The "prose" goes on for OVER THIRTY PAGES.  

A man with a normal psyche doesn't release this sort of torture on the general public. 
Especially when the target audience for said book is parents. Of preschoolers. Who have enough on their plate without having to do voice exercises and mental calesthenics prior to reading a nap-time story. 

And I'm not kidding here, you have to arm yourself with a quart of water before starting it because the anapestic and amphibrachic tetrameter stupid rhyming rhythms he utilizes in that tale makes one parched to the point of dehydration within 3 page turns. Not to mention the fact that the book is just asinine. Whoever heard of a Soobrian Snipe? 
Finally, once you've finished reading the story, three-and-a-half hours later, all you want to do is either curl up in a fetal position and hibernate for the next week or drown your sorrows in a bottle of merlot vodka. Neither of which is conducive to properly raising the aforementioned preschooler. 

Which means you then have to contend with the Department of Child Welfare. 

To make matters worse, I know my kids plotted against me from the time Libby could appreciate being read to aloud, because they both LOVED that book,*** therefore was in high rotation for years. I literally cringed when they would bring it to me. Just thinking about reading it now induces mild PTSD. 

Naturally I tried to pull the wool over the progenies' eyes and "accidentally" skip pages during readings. I was perfectly happy to jump from The Drumm-Tummied Snumm on stage two all the way over to the Spotted Atrocious. The problem was the kids had the bloody thing memorized; they knew all too well when I missed the opening parade-of-parades featuring the Harp-Twanging Snarp playing their Three-Snarper Harp. And Mom? You forgot about the Juggling Jot who can juggle twenty-two questions marks. Which is a lot.

Note to new parents: If you take nothing else from this entry, don't make this mistake! Your best bet is to just ensure your kids never know about the existence of this book. If it's too late for that, however, no thanks to some well-meaning uncle or grandparent, set the bar low in the beginning and only read 1/4 of the book to your sprout at any given time. They'll think it's a new book each read and their ignorance is your bliss. You'll thank me for this tip eventually, I promise. 

Talk to me.  You know you want to. You know that deep down you have particular book by this very author that you absolutely loathe. He was long-winded, that man. (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is another that goes on for days.) It's OK! I don't judge. Quite the opposite. I encourage being in touch with your inner Dr.-Seuss-hater. 

I just want to hear which one it is. -> 

*The actual books, top row L to R: The Butter Battle Book, Sneetches, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax. Bottom row L to R: Yertle the Turtle, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who

**I blame my folks. 

***In fact, both STILL cite this book as one of their favorites. 


Carolyn said...

Something Rosie Ross, Rosie's going riding on her red rhinosaurus.

Mmmmm, many mice making music in the moonlight, mighty nice.

And I'm older than you are and did not have my own children to refresh my memory with! :)

Tanya said...

Rosie ROBIN Ross. Rosie's going riding etc...

Many MUMBLING mice etc


My favorite is L:

Little Lola Lopp. Left leg, lazy lion licks a lollipop.

Baysage said...

Bartholomew and the Oobleck was hands down the greatest Seuss book ever. And it doesn't even get a mention here. That's positively shocking!