Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Different Takes on Seuss

Philip Nel's Dr. Seuss: American Icon

This is probably the best researched book I've ever read. The citation runs for 85 pages in an 184 page book. If you're writing a research paper, here's a great source.

Nel doesn't really look into Seuss's life (which doesn't interest me) but focuses on his work. There's a few disturbing points--Seuss drew cartoons in the 40s depicting Japanese Americans as potential terrorists waiting "the signal from home." Nel notes that Seuss only depicted Japanese as monkeys once in his career (this was the norm for American cartoonists).

However, Seuss made amends for the races and religions he offended, replacing "China-man" in Mulberry Street with "Chinese man" and apparently writing Horton Hears a Who! as a post-war parable for peace with Japan. He admitted he was a sexist "peeg" and never revised several questionable remarks about girls. (When Seuss was a boy, women in the local Christian Temperance movement forced his family's distillery to go under. Maybe I'm a sap but I don't hold it against him. Mess with a guy's booze and you'll mess with his mind.)

The most stunning passage of the book is "The Guardbark," a right-wing reaction against The Lorax. The Guardbark is a brown-skinned creature that ranks and raves against a white logger for cutting down trees.

"I WON'T take a seat, or LISTEN, or LOOK."
the Guardbark raved on. He snarled and he shook.

"I'm Guardbark, I tell you, keeper of trees.
Our future, you know, is dependent on these.
You must stop this hacking and whacking and stacking.
You should NOT be here. I MUST send you packing."

The logger proves to the Guardbark that the logging industry only has the best interest in the environment (concluding with "things aren't as bad as they seem") so he flies happily away.

Another section imagines one of Bush's cabinet meetings in which W bases his foreign policy based on Seuss (stemming from an actual Bushism). This would be funnier if I didn't think it might have happened.

I skipped sections of the book that didn't interest me but I'd recommend giving this a look.

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