Rereading the Classics

It’s a national holiday, the kind where schools are closed, but a lot of people still need to work. Especially, the ones who have a two income household and neither income is pulling in a lot, or the sort where it’s a single parent raising kids alone. Hiring a babysitter is too expensive and the kids are almost old enough to be left alone by themselves…so they are. What’s the worst that could happen? How about a guy in a costume breaking into the house? A guy who claims he’s there to entertain as he ransacks the place and invites in his associates. This is the plot of the Cat in the Hat, a story I had not remembered as being so ominous until I was reading it to my own children. It’s a pretty scary premise and everything does end up alright, but the text is explicit in that he breaks into their house and the whole episode is pretty stressful. When I read it I always give the Cat a suave, slightly sinister voice, and point out that putting things in their place when he’s squashed the cake and bent the coat rack isn’t really fixing it. My literal minded son, when the book ends with a question of “what would you do?” has recently started answering immediately that if it was him, he would have kicked the intruder out immediately and then caught him in a big net, so he couldn’t cause any trouble. I feel very proud.

We also read The Lorax a lot. It’s as moving and relevant as ever, sadly, but what shocks me on rereading it, (I make sure the first person narrative has as much pathos as possible and give the Onceler a New England accent) is that The Lorax is a failed activist. Yes, he speaks for the trees and the fish and the barbaloots, but he is so preachy and spends so much time trying to guilt the Onceler, that he’s totally useless. The Onceler talks about feeling guilty about what he’s doing, but in the very end, he just gets angry at being harangued all the time and totally digs in on his position, whereas if the Lorax hadn’t been such a preachy jerk about it, it’s possible he could have convinced the Onceler to practice sustainable forestry and implement pollution control measures. I had remembered The Lorax as a story with a clear villain and a hero, but on rereading it nowadays, the Lorax doesn’t seem like a hero to me anymore or the Onceler so much an intentional bad guy as much a story of people be unable to communicate successfully.

For the record, I’ve also reread Green Eggs and Ham a bunch and I still find it a delightful little story about why you should try new foods and no one is going to convince me that it is some sort of toxic masculinity story, Seriously, how can that actually be a thing now??

So if you haven’t picked up some good old Doctor Seues lately, I suggest, whatever your age, you give them a good reread.