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Filmcans and Vinyl: The life of Dr. Seuss

September 28, 2009
By JOSHUA?DEAL - Sun-Gazette Correspondent

"And if you go in, should you turn left or right or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind." "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" Dr. Seuss

It's Thursday morning, Sept. 24, 2009. Raining or shining, it's obvious that autumn is slowly descending on the North East. I ate yogurt this morning with a bowl of cereal maybe I switched it up with a couple of eggs fried in olive oil.

At 9:25 this morning, I'll be up on campus sitting in a photo class; At 2:30 this afternoon, I'll be in the lab working on my thesis photo assignment; at 6 tonight, I'll be sitting next my Hungarian friend, studying for the GRE exam.

Now, jump back a hundred years Theodor Seuss Geisel is born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. His parents operate a local brewery, but he will become a writer, and one of the best children's writers of all time. We will know him as Dr. Seuss and after becoming "maybe the most renowned children's poet of the 20th century," he will die on Sept. 24, 1991.

As a young man, Geisel attended Dartmouth College, where his knack for writing and sharing comedy became apparent through his work as an editor of a college publication, "The Jack-O-Lantern." But the college froze his extracurricular involvement after he was caught drinking gin with friends. After all, he was a student during the 1920s and these were the years of prohibition.

Following the years at Dartmouth, Geisel traveled to England, where he planned to earn a master's degree from Oxford University in literature. Instead of finishing the degree, he met his wife, Helen Palmer, and eventually traveled back to the states, where he began his career as a writer and an artist.

Ultimately, the work of Dr. Seuss has colored our world and as I researched this man's life last night, I found him both wildly mysterious and normal at the same time. Coming from a German family, Seuss grew up attending a Lutheran church and remained a Lutheran until his death in 1991. While the man was Lutheran, some anti-Semitic social organizations at Dartmouth denied him acceptance thinking his surname was Jewish.

I found that he and his wife shared a deep love for each other but after health complications and years of pain, Helen purposefully overdosed in 1967.

One Web site claimed that she passed away, while another claimed her suicide was an act of love towards her husband, who she could no longer support as she had done for years.

Shortly after Helen's death, Seuss remarried his best friend's wife. He said this concerning the marriage: "My best friend is being divorced and I'm going to Reno to comfort his wife." How appropriate that this would happen the same year Mike Nichol's controversial movie "The Graduate" was released in America.

Of course, how can I not express curiosity upon learning some of the complex points behind a man who has encouraged so much humor and joy through his stories? When I was young, the book, "Oh, the Places We'll Go!" was one of my favorites but, like many children's books, its transcendent allure comes from its willingness to peek into the mysteries of life and everything beyond.

Another favorite children's book growing up was "Stuart Little," which, like Seuss' stories, creates a world of mystery and wonder. If you haven't read it, the story is about the human, Stuart, who is born as a mouse to his New York City parents. The book chronicles Stuart's adventures and ends on a somewhat sobering note, as Stuart ventures north looking for his bird friend Margalo.

The writer, E.B. White, includes a conversation between Stuart and a gas station repairman in the book's final pages where the repairman rambles on about the wondrous things he has experienced in the north. During the conversation, Stuart says, "I rather expect that from now on I shall be traveling north until the end of my days."

Like the fantastic world Seuss created in his literature, the best children's books draw us into a place of fantasy where we don't know what to expect

In reality, I'm finishing this article Tuesday afternoon, and although I can imagine what will happen in my life on Sunday when this article is printed, I honestly have no idea what to expect.



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