So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Tough Coughs As He Ploughs the Dough: Early Writings and Cartoons by Dr. Seuss is a collection of writings from 1927 to 1937 by Theodore Geisel, from the time before be became known to the world as Dr. Seuss. These are not works for children, but rather humorous pieces for magazines like Judge, Life, College Humor, and Liberty. Filled with word play and absurdist writing, the pieces have lost some of their humor but are still interesting background reading for those interested in Dr. Seuss. The illustrations are probably more important than the writing as they show the development of the cartoon style that made Dr. Seuss famous.

Many of the essays are written under the pen name of Dr. Theophrastus Seuss, which would later be shortened to Dr. Seuss. There is a long piece where Uncle Theophrastus explains to his nephew Quackenbush "The Facts of Life." Another delightful story tells of a corporation that decides to forego profit to manufacture items of the highest "Quality."

A series of one-page Little Educational Charts attempt to explain the most absurd aspects of things like the importance of Simplified Spelling (see the book's title for a sample) and other one-page essays on imaginary uses of birds and beasts and whimsical word meanings were obviously humorous magazine pieces. The book ends with a series of ads for a spray insecticide called FLIT that all contain the catchphrase, "Quick Henry, the Flit."

While the writing has suffered a bit from the passage of time, the artistic humor of Geisel's drawings remains, and provides good background for those who only know his children's books.


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