The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ode to a Quirky Man

Dr. Suess (Theodor Suess Giesel, 1904-1991) was one of the great men of our times. For many of us, the name immediately invokes images of green eggs and ham, of lanky cats in red and white stripped hats, and a green pot-bellied menace that would try to steal Christmas from Cindy Lou Who.

But he was really so much more than that. He was an everyman, in a way you never hear of anymore. If you read about his life, he seems at once extraordinary and normal. Foolhardy and brave. Always adventurous. And with a gift for words the likes of which has not been seen since.

He went to Dartmouth, where he began writing under his mother's maiden name because he'd been thrown off the school paper for getting caught drinking gin in his dorm room in the heart of prohibition.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

He went to Oxford in search of a PhD and found love instead.

"You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams."

He penned a series of political cartoon during WWII that scathingly denounced Hitler and Mussolini.

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant."

His work there got him noticed by Warner Brother's studio and he moved on to help create Private Snafu, a series of very raunchy animated soldier training films.

"I like nonesense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope, which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities."

After the war, he and his wife would move to California and he would turn his attention to writing children's stories. His early books would win countless awards, but incredibly, he would never, in all his years, win the Newbury or Caldecott Medals, the most prestigious of the children's literature honors.

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who will decide where to go."

Then in May of 1954, Life Magazine published an article about illiteracy among school children, and concluded that part of the problem was that their books were boring. William Ellsworth Spaulding, the Director of the Education Division at Houghton Mifflin Publishing, would then sit down and compile a list of the 348 words he felt were most important for first graders to learn. He gave this list to Theodor Giesel, who none months later would return with a book that used 236 of those words - The Cat in the Hat.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Within a few very short years, Dr. Suess would transform children's literature forever. Many authors who have come since have emulated his style, his class, his gift for language. For this alone, let alone what his books brought into our lives, he bettered all our worlds. He empowered children, put them in the spotlight, made them feel special, embracing that they are not little adults (quite the opposite - see below) and encouraged them to laugh, to think, to read. To be quirky!

"Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them."

And for this we thank him. Daily. In 2009, Green Eggs and Ham sold 540,366 copies, Cat in the Hat sold 452,258 copies and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish sold 409,068 - each outselling the majority of newly published children's books.

"And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed. Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed!"

As authors, we could only hope for a legacy such as this. Not the sales, though I'm sure our grandchildren would not mind overmuch, but to be remembered so well, so foundly, and by so many. Over the course of his career, his honors would include two Academy Awards, two Emmys, a Peabody Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Or perhaps his alma mater honors him most nobley, when 90% of incoming Freshman at Dartmouth take pre-registration wilderness trips as part of their orientation, and upon their return are always served green eggs and ham for breakfast.

For all this man did for us as children, my very favorite quote is one that I have returned to again and again as an adult. I don't think I knew it was a Dr. Seuss quote when I first found it as a teenager, having moved past the age when silly rhymes and fantastical drawings could soothe me. But, as it turns out, he was still there for me, urging us to keep learning (Oh, The Places You'll Go) and reminding us that those who love us, love us quirks and all:
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."


Penelope said...

Sam! This is an amazing and wonderful post. And you are right, Dr. Seuss is such a great example of quirky...I'm going to make him an honorary Quirk!

Love this! Bravo!

Michelle Polaris said...

I love that quote! What an amazing man. We don't always think about the gift he gave us - both when we were children, and now to the secret places of our child hearts deep inside as adults.

Dalton Diaz said...

Fabulous post! My favorite book to read the twins was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. We made a game of seeing how fast I could read it as they pointed to the different colors, etc.
Great memories, great man.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Samantha. I loved learning those little tidbits about Dr. Seuss and reading the quotes. It's amazing that he's still out selling other writers.

Ashlyn Chase said...

Awesome post, Sam. I'd like to think of my work as a little Seuss-like, with sex. LOL.

Victoria Morgan said...

I love this post and all these wonderful quotes. Was he inspirational or what?? The Lorax still makes me cry. He is the man and has been throughout the generations. Tough act to follow.