June 4, 2010

REVIEW: Theodor SEUSS Geisel (Lives and Legacies)

Dr. Suess is one of Dartmouth's favorite sons, and yet few of us know much about Theodor Seuss Geisel, the D'25 son of a brewer who drew naughty cartoons for the Jack-O and made war movies for the military. In his book, Theodor SEUSS Geisel Dartmouth Professor and MALS director Donald Pease shows us the flesh-and-blood man behind the most celebrated children's books in America. We see how Geisel's shame and ostracism due to his German ancestry in WWI America inspired him to take refuge in satire. We learn how he adopted his now famous pen-name to circumvent the administration's suspension of his extracurricular activities after H-Po caught him drinking during prohibition. We see the development he experiences, from a war-cartoonist and political satirist to an author/illustrator primarily for children, and we take note of the tragedies that befall him, notably the suicide of his first wife.

Anyone who has ever taken a class with Don Pease, knows his signature voice and manner of speaking, both of which come off beautifully in the book. Normally his high-brow, idiosyncratic, and deeply passionate deconstructions (peppered with words of his own invention) are reserved for the 'high' American literature covered in his classes, and so it is actually funny to see him apply the same focused lens to The Cat in the Hat and And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Pease is a gifted storyteller and is even more gifted at peeling back the layers of meaning found even in the child-oriented work of Dr. Seuss. His book is a quick and enjoyable read, and yet nothing seems missing.

If you are the reading-type and haven't had the pleasure of taking one of Professor Pease's classes, sign-up now. If you haven't taken the time to research this illustrious Man of Dartmouth, buy this book.

Read it
Skim it
Toss it


  1. Anonymous1:09 PM

    Prof. Pease hasn't updated his English Department bio page since 2005 i.e. when the graduating seniors were in high school.

    Every varsity sports team coach on DartmouthSports.com has a bio that is right up to date.

    What does that tell you about the relative importance of academics and sports at Dartmouth?

  2. Anonymous12:42 PM

    Somebody has made a very poor choice for the cover of the book. Not everyone who sees it on display in a bookstore is going to immediately associate the name Theodore Seuss Geisel with Dr. Seuss.

    The best thing would have been to integrate an image of one of the famous Dr. Seuss characters into the cover photo somehow; this is so screamingly obvious that there must be some reason why it wasn't done--perhaps the owners of the copyrights didn't allow it.

    The cover is going to cost them tens of thousands of bookstore sales.