As my son has been insisting more and more frequently that I read Dr. Seuss to him I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to look upon the works with new eyes. Part of these observations do stem from my incessant championing of The Road. The book was amazing, the structure unusual, and overall I thought it was brilliant. Still, a few complaints mentioned were the lack of dialogue tags and quotation marks [amusingly enough I have yet to see criticisms of the story itself – and no, I’m not going to link that article]. After all, how are we to know what character is speaking without someone writing “Mr. Tweedlebeedle said”?
And you know what? When reading Green Eggs and Ham I came to the amazing discovery that… I KNEW who was saying what! No, really! I know there are illustrations, but in all seriousness, if you’re reading the book to a little person you’re not necessarily looking at the pictures. Also, in a picture that spanned two adjacent pages both characters will be made to look like they’re talking and still no confusion. Exception: When you’re reading Fox in Socks confusion abounds. Of course one should expect that in a book completely made of tongue twisters. [No matter how tired I am the boy requires me to read this to him. Feel bad for me.] Even more so – THERE ARE NO QUOTATION MARKS AND I STILL KNEW CHARACTERS WERE TALKING!
Another little myth I discovered is the issue of not naming characters. Many people have voiced opinions noting that this is pretentious. How can a character be well constructed, sympathetic, three dimensional without a name? Behold the pretentiously unnamed characters of Dr. Seuss!
That’s right! The guy who keeps refusing to try green eggs and ham has NO NAME. [My son actually calls HIM Green Eggs and Ham despite my many attempts to convince him otherwise. I’ve dubbed him “Hatman”. The character, not my son.]
While we learn about the bofa on the sofa, the vug under the rug and nupboards in cupboards one bit of information remains missing. The narrator’s name. That’s right, that oh, so pretentious Dr. Seuss failed to name YET ANOTHER CHARACTER. Elitist jerk. Hrmph.
There are no dialogue tags or quotation marks in this one, although the main characters ARE named. Mr. Knox and Mr. Socks Fox are continuously bantering over what would actually be fun to do. Here’s an excerpt to aptly demonstrate why you should feel bad for me.
Try to say this, Mr. Knox, please….
Through three cheese trees three free fleas flew. While these fleas flew, freezy breeze blew. Freezy breeze made these three trees freeze. Freezy trees made these trees’ cheese freeze. That’s what made these three free fleas sneeze.
YOU try saying that after a long day of toddler wrangling. Or any day for that matter. Strangely, it’s now easier for me to say than to type. I’m sure there are more of his works that fall into these qualifiers, but as they are in my son’s room (and he’s now asleep) I feel it prudent to keep the door closed and let sleeping toddlers lie.
What marks a work as pretentious? Is there such a thing? Why? How? And, I think most importantly, did YOU try and say that quote from Fox in Socks out loud?
Btw – It’s my birthday, so please don’t mind the overwhelming stench of chocolate from my blog. I’m pretty sure I’ll be bathing in it today.