Thursday, December 23, 2010

Seuss's Best

     This time of year makes me think of Dr. Seuss.  With his penchant for delivering a message without being saccharine or didactic, he wrote the best Christmas story of all time.  As great as it is though, everyone's got their favorite Seuss and that's not quite mine.  While Green Eggs and Ham may hold my top spot for sentimental reasons (plus I can recite the whole thing cold after reading it to pre-kindergartners for eleven years running), my more intellectually-formed choice is the lesser-known, under-read I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.  It's got a message, it's (I believe the term the Doctor himself would prefer is) "kooky," but underneath everything else is the classic Hero's Journey just as another doctor (Joseph Campbell) laid it out.  A nameless half person/half unidentifiable furry animal type finds life in the Valley of Vung becoming untenable, what with the dangerous terrain and the predators and all.  So, lured away by a camel-riding huckster, he sets out for the Utopian city of Solla Sollew, where they never have troubles (or at least very few).  As any reader will tell you, the journey is where the story lies, and -- without ever leaving Seussian territory -- the journey this guy undertakes is as harrowing, absurd and nightmarish as anything from Kafka to the Hunger Games.
     The ending proves somewhat shocking for Seuss (and is pretty controversial among five- and six-year-olds, let me tell you), but it seems to me that a softer ending would have missed the point.  As usual, whether he was writing about Christmas or anything else, the Doctor got it just right.

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