Sunday, February 12, 2017

William Bennett writes

[I've been reading about Dr. Seuss in "The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing But the Seuss" and have been a bit inspired to Seussify some of my poetree-ifications to take liberties, or slumberings, or truthifications to expandify the feeling-I-fications that may enrichify the poetical meanings I hope to implify.  Here is my latest experiment.]

Encurbulating Thoughts

When bed slides to and fro at night
disturbs heavenly slumberings,
for a while it's all right;
but the encurbulating encumbers
and distraughts the mind to knots with have-nots.

So oft the whispy images
like cold drafts in the mind's attic
enshiverate the heart
with cold wanderings of the pastling ghosts:
wishing the past may have been what it's knot.
Self-Portrait of the Artist Worrying about His Next Book  -- Theodor Seuss Geisel


  1. Dr. Seuss did this self-portrait in 1959, after the huge success of "The Cat in the Hat" and "How The Grinch Stole Christmas!" (His next would be "Green Eggs and Ham," so he shouldn't have worried; altogether, his 60+ children's books sold over 600 million copies in more than 20 languages by the time of his death in 1991; adaptations included 11 television specials, four feature films, a Broadway musical, and four television series.) The son of a brewer, Theodor Geisel adopted his "Dr. Seuss" pen name at Dartmouth College (which would him an honorary doctorate in 1956) after he was caught drinking gin with nine friends in his room during Prohibition and disallowed from continuing any extracurricular activities; but he continued his work on the college's quarterly humor magazine "Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern" ("Jacko") as "Seuss," his middle name. He graduated in 1925 and went to Lincoln College, Oxford Univerity, intending to earn a PhD in English literature but left in 1927 to work as an illustrator and cartoonist in the US; his first nationally published cartoon appeared in the July 16, 1927 issue of "The Saturday Evening Post," for which he was paid $25. He then accepted a job as writer and illustrator for the weekly satire magazine "Judge;" his first cartoon for that publication appeared in October and his first work as "Dr. Seuss" was published about six months later. In early 1928, one of his cartoons mentioned Flit, an insecticide manufactured by Standard Oil of New Jersey; the wife of an advertising executive in charge of the product saw the cartoon at her hairdresser's, and Geisel's Flit ads ran from 1928 to 1941. (The campaign's catchphrase, "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" became a part of popular culture, spawned a song, and was used as a punch line for comedians such as Fred Allen and Jack Benny.) The Flit ads led to Geisel's frequent appearances in leading magazines such as "Life," "Liberty," and "Vanity Fair" and ad work for General Electric, National Broadcastng Corporation, Standard Oil, Narragansett Brewing Company, and other firms, and between April and June 1935 he wrote and drew a Sunday comic strip, "Hejji," about Baako, a strange land with whales swimming in water-filled volcanic craters, a flower that broadcasted music, and twin goats that shared a single beard. In 1936, returning from an ocean voyage to Europe, the rhythm of the ship's engines inspired the poem that became his first book, "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," which was initially rejected by dozens of publishers. Before World War II he published four boooks in prose, including "The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History's Barest Family," a picture book aimed at an adult audience that only sold 50 copies before being remaindered. His response was, "Adults are obsolete children, and the hell with them," and he returned to the genre that would make him famous with the publication of "Horton Hatches the Egg" in 1940. (In 1942 Bob Clampett, best known for designing Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and Tweety, adapted "Horton" for Warner Bros.' "Merrie Melodies" series of cartoons.)

  2. However, he continued his promotional work, notably for Essomarine (a motor boat lubricant produced by Standard Oil), contributed over 400 political cartoons for the leftist daily "PM," and drew posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board. In 1943 he joined the army as a captain and commanded of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces. In associattion with Clampitt's fellow cartoonist Chuck Jones he worked on the "Private Snafu" series of army educational cartoons (the character was created by Hollywood director Frank Capra). His work on "Our Job in Japan" became the basis for the commercially released film, "Design for Death," a study of Japanese culture that won the 1947 Academy Award for Documentary Feature (although Geisel was not included in the credits). Three of his postwar children's books ("McElligot's Pool," "Bartholomew and the Oobleck," and "If I Ran the Zoo") were runners-up for the Caldecott Medal for children's books, though, surprisingly, he never won a Caldeott or Newbery Medal. In 1951 "Gerald McBoing-Boing," based on an original story by him, won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. In 1953 he wrote the musical fantasy, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," but it was a critical and financial failure, and he never attempted another feature film. However, he published a number of illustrated short stories, mostly in "Redbook Magazine," some of these were later collected (in volumes such as "The Sneetches and Other Stories" and "The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories) or reworked into independent books ("If I Ran the Zoo," 1950) and popular books such as "Horton Hears a Who!" (1955), and "If I Ran the Circus" (1956). "Gerald McBoing-Boing" was revived as an animated series that ran on television for three months in 1956 and 1957.

  3. After "Life" magazine published a report in 1954 which concluded that children were not learning to read because their books were boring, the director of Houghton Mifflin's education division, William Ellsworth Spaulding, compiled a list of 348 words that he felt were important for first-graders to know and asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and write a book using only those words, challenging him to "bring back a book children can't put down." Nine months later, using just 236 words, Geisel completed "The Cat in the Hat" (1957). [It was this accomplishment in particular, as well as his other "Beginner Books" using the same simplified vocabulary, that caused the National Education Association to designate his birthday, March 2, as the annual National Read Across America Day). He won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 for "Horton Hatches the Egg" and in 1961 for "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street." In 1959 he authorized the plastic model-making company Revell to produce the "Dr. Seuss Zoo" consisting of interchangeable basic body parts that allowed children to create their own animal characters by combining parts from various characters that snapped together (rather than being glued together). In 1966 he authorized Chuck Jones to make an animated cartoon version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" and acted as co-producer. Jones later adapted "Horton Hears a Who!" in 1970 and "The Cat in the Hat" in 1971. Between 1972 and 1983, Geisel wrote six animated TV specials which won multipe Emmies: "The Lorax," "Dr. Seuss on the Loose," "The Hoober-Bloob Highway," "Halloween Is Grinch Night," "Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You?" and "The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat." Geisel also began to collaborate with others; beginning with "I Wish That I Had Duck Feet" (1965) he used the pen name "Theo LeSieg" (Geisel backwards) for books he wrote and others illustrated, and called himself Rosetta Stone for 1975's "Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!!," his collaboration with Michael K. Frith, the creative director for Jim Henson Productions' Muppets. Adult animator Ralph Bakshi directed "The Butter Battle Book" as a TV special, the last adaptation of Seuss' work before he died. In 1980 the American Library Association awarded him the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for writers or illustrators of children's books, and in 1984 he recived a special Pulitzer Prize. In 1991, his widow approved a live-action feature film version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" starring Jim Carrey (which finally premiered in 2000), and Mike Myers did another live-action film, "The Cat in the Hat" (2003). Jim Henson Television produced "The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss," a mix of live-action and puppetry, for the 1996-97 television seasons. A remake of "Gerald McBoing-Boing" ran from 2005 to 2007, and "The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!" began airing in 2010. Two GCI-animated films, "Horton Hears a Who!" and "The Lorax" appeared in 2008 and 2012. In addition to the honors based on his literary efforts, the University of California, San Diego's University Library Building was renamed Geisel Library in 1995, and the Dartmouth Medical School renamed itself the Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine in 2012.


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