Beyond Genius

Dr. Seuss is gone— long live Dr. Seuss

“The Cat Carnival in West Venice,” part of Addi Galleries’<i> The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.</i>

“The Cat Carnival in West Venice,” part of Addi Galleries’ The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.

Photo By David Robert

He is remembered for the murder of Dick and Jane, which was a mercy killing of the highest order.

—Anna Quindlen, columnist

Memorizing quotes from the canon of Dr. Seuss comes in handy. With more than 50 books to his name, there’s a rhyme for any occasion.

Are your kids complaining about meaningless details, like the quality of their wardrobes? Remind them how lucky they are that they don’t live in that forest in France “where the average young person just hasn’t a chance/to escape from the terrible pants-eating plants.”

Are you feeling a bit lugubrious about life in general? Let your co-workers know by moaning this:

“My hat is old. My teeth are gold.

I have a bird I like to hold.

My shoe is off. My foot is cold.”

Seuss even fills in during those tense, quiet moments in movies. My husband Dave and I recently watched a submarine flick. The sub sinks. The men end up rowing an inflatable boat to safety. As the camera pulls out for a long shot and soft music kicks in, I contribute a Seuss voice-over:

“We floated 12 days without toothpaste or soap. We practically, almost, had given up hope—when someone up high shouted, ‘Here, catch the rope.'”

Dave has put up with this kind of thing for 18 years.

So he wasn’t surprised when I came home from Addi Galleries’ The Secret Art of Seuss show wanting to buy. The vibrant color and brilliant movement in the serigraphs knocked me off my oobleck. The Secret Art collection includes limited edition reproductions of paintings that Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel created to hang in his home. The Seuss family donated the original paintings to an art museum in San Diego.

But the numbered, unsigned reproductions are the next best thing. The gallery in the Reno Hilton also has limited-edition illustration art, numbered and unsigned. The illustration art includes a cover design sketch and end product for Happy Birthday to You. The Grinch appears in one sketch and the Cat in the Hat in another. But my favorite is the bee-watcher scene from Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

“Oh, the jobs people work at, out west near Hawtch-Hawtch, there lives a bee-watcher whose job is to watch, is to keep both his eyes on the lazy town bee. A bee that is watched will work harder, you see.”

The town, as fans may recall, decides the bee-watcher doesn’t watch well. A bee-watcher watcher is assigned the job of keeping an eye on the original watcher. This kind of bureaucracy continues until: “Today all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch are watching on watch-watcher-watchering watch, watch-watching the watcher who’s watching that bee. You’re not a Hawtch-watcher. You’re lucky. You see?”

The Hawtcher subtext is so deep, so authentic. I still get misty, even on the 5 millionth reading.

I cried when Seuss died in 1991. Of course, I also sniveled when Gene Siskel died, and I thought there’d be no more “two thumbs up” to denote good movies to rent at Blockbuster.

We taught our kids to read with Seuss’ simpler works, The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. But our read-aloud favorites include Horton Hears a Who and its companion work, Horton Hatches The Egg, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? and, of course, The Lorax. I can still recite much of The Lorax. And I will at the slightest prompting …

A male authority figure gives me heartburn?

I mutter, “He was shortish and oldish and brownish and mossy. He spoke with a voice that was sharpish and bossy.”

Someone challenges my illusions of greatness?

“For your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering on biggering and biggering and biggering and biggering.”

And my solution to apathy?

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”

And here’s what I tell myself about consumerism when I’m feeling pathetic pangs of desire for something I can’t afford:

“I laughed at the Lorax, ‘You poor stupid guy, there’s really no telling what people will buy.'”