The Descent of Dr. Seuss

No Place for Absurdity
By Eric Gibson
J.K. Rowling famously negotiated ironclad agreements with Warner Bros. to make sure that her Harry Potter books made it to the screen in the right way. (What you saw was what you read.) The stewards of Beatrix Potter have kept a watchful eye, too, permitting animated versions of her stories that hew to the letter and spirit of her work.
The legacies of A.A. Milne and Rudyard Kipling have not been so lucky, however. Their literary greatness is unrecognizable in Disney’s adaptations of “Winnie the Pooh” and “The Jungle Book.” More grotesquely, Dr. Seuss, in movie form, has suffered the same fate. Hollywood cashed in as Carrey and Myers mugged and romped, earning each film about $250 million. (With its recent video release, “Cat” is set to earn more.) But such success has nearly wrecked the brand.
As a writer, Geisel was the heir of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. To be sure, embedded in his stories are messages and morals ranging right across the political spectrum. But at root he was an absurdist, a writer who, like his illustrious predecessors, took a childlike delight in upending the ordered universe with puns and playful fantasy and the incongruous juxtapositions of ideas — the “humming fish” of “The Lorax,” for example, or the antlered creature, the Gack, of “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” (“At our house/We play out back./We play a game/Called Ring the Gack.”).
Mercury News | 21 March 2004

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