Thomas's Reviews > The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
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's review
Aug 03, 2012

it was amazing
Read in January, 1981

With such a panoply of young-young-adult literature under a variety of pseudonyms, the ouevre of Theodore Geisel is difficult to categorize monolithically, let alone be described via archetype, the basest form of description. Nonetheless, 1957's Le Chat Dans le Chapeau (The Cat In The Hat) has both struggled and thrived as a metonymical stand-in for Geisel himself.

Twenty years after his death, Geisel remains, unquestionably, among the greatest of the self-imposed honorary doctorates; his place in history is alongside such greats as Andre Young, Moran Lee Boggs, and Julius Erving II. However, his journey from New England and the Ivy League to New Deal liberalism was not without stumbles. After such revolutionary and creative early works which celebrated the creative and the absurd (Et dire que je l'ai vu sur Mulberry Street; Les 500 Chapeaux de Bartholomew Cubbins), Geisel was painted as a sauvage by the literary establishment. In an era of heightened paranoia and patriotism, the author's response to this criticism was a series of reactionary and moralistic primers promoting self-reliance and denouncing the socialist ideal (Le roi des échasses; Trappes Horton l'oeuf; Thidwick le Moose du Big-Hearted).

At first glance, Le Chat, released amid the fever pitch of nationalistic terror in the wake of Sputnik, appears to suffer from the acridity of American xenophobia and isolationism. Reflecting the chastened spirit of its author, the work ostensibly denounces the actions of the titular feline and defends the nuclear family and the law and order of the motherland. Nonetheless, one can scarcely ignore the vivacity and spirit with which the cat breathes life into the text. It is not difficult for the astute reader to appreciate the author's deep affection for his anti-hero, like Moliere to Tartuffe or Richard O'Brien to Frank N. Furter. It is, perhaps, this spirit that allows Le Chat to retain a grip over new readers 65 years after its initial publication.

In the post-Woodstock era of American life, Geisel abandoned the mirth of Le Chat and Vert Oeufs et Jambon and produced works of a directly partisan nature (Le Lorax; Le Livre Bataille du Beurre). Not unpredictably, such propaganda pieces leave little opportunity for subtextual analysis. Le Chat, however, remains, like Leonardo's Giaconda, a beguiling visage grinning at its viewers through the ages.
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message 1: by Eli (new)

Eli This begs for a review, not just a star rating.

Thomas I aim to please.

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