Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Dr. Seuss

I rarely talk about other people’s blogs, and most of you are familiar with Sharon Astyk anyway, but I was inspired to link to yesterday’s column, in which Astyk celebrates Dr. Seuss on his 105th birthday, and sees parallels between his books and our situation.

Seuss books almost inevitably follow the pattern of a small, precipitating event (the offer of a snack, rainy day boredom, a horse and wagon on Mulberry Street), and preceed through a frenzy of wild variations on the theme, bringing things to a crisis point. The horse and wagon becomes a parade, the cat trashes the house, things deteriorate (or progess) into wild chaos. In some cases, things as basic as language themselves begin to decompensate - a few words “fox, socks, box, Knox” becomes “When a fox is in the bottle where the tweedle beetles battle with their paddles in a puddle on a poodle eating noodle, THIS is what they call … at tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in socks, sir.” And in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back we actually see linguistically multiplying alphabet cats, and something beyond Z that annhilates language and imagination altogether.

... Dr. Suess books almost inevitably end in a full stop, another small thing that reshapes the crisis. Sam I Am takes a bite. The resentful turtle at the bottom burps. Horton’s egg hatches. And in the midst of all that wild language and its even wilder illustrations, things become quiet again - not necessarily because all the internal conflicts are resolved, but because the books reached the point at which there was nowhere else to go in the direction they were facing, and thus, another small precipitating event changes things. As we see from _The Cat and the Hat Comes Back_ further chaos is likely - but the direction has changed.


If you do not read Astyk’s blog, I highly recommend you do. She touches on a wide spectrum of issues relating to the Long Emergency -- from food storage to caring for the disabled to getting along with neighbours to global finance -- and even when I disagree with her, I always look forward to the next column.

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss -- you are much beloved in this house too. I'm sure I am only one of hundreds who will come up with this quote today, but the day calls for it:

You're in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
And all of his friends
may come back.

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