My Summer Lair Chapter #117: Name Thing One You Know About Dr. Seuss!
To my credit I conducted this interview with Brian Jay Jones about his current Dr. Seuss biography and I only used the word whimsy once. Not bad, right?
Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination is out now; it’s fascinating because I knew nothing about Dr. Seuss the man; I only knew his exceptional work.
Becoming Dr. Seuss is captivating because it precisely documents the odd tensions of being a children’s writer. There’s this weird baggage that children’s books are “supposed to have some sort of moral or character edification” eh the usual fare…don’t lie, be good…don’t steal. What…why?
It morally never made sense because we never question the children’s books writers: why do we willingly and blindly elevate these writers to the level of priests and pastors? Where does that cheezy morality impetus come from?
Really that morality burden never made sense because that’s typical not why people read. The Simpsons consistently ridicule this notion often when they come to the end of an episode they’ll hash out what the moral of the events from the past half-hour were. And inevitably they’ll conclude there was no takeaway; there’s no moral it was just a bunch of (funny) stuff that happened. So good at curing the kind of nonsense that we accept without question.
By sidestepping that unnecessary morality Dr. Seuss fulfilled his one goal: to make reading fun. Now that is an astonishing and enduring legacy.
Beyond that Brian’s fabulous writing is a deft archaeology of yet another pop culture architect. I dig Brian’s previous bios: Jim Henson: The Biography is extraordinary which preceded the most excellent George Lucas: A Life (which oddly stands out for the simple idea that Lucas didn’t do it. How does Star Wars boy view his legacy?).
From those subject matters you can tell Brian is one of us treating his subjects with care; dedicated to unearthing patterns and engaging stories behind the work we all adore. So grateful I was able to talk to him and get a glimpse into the world of biography.