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Happy Birthday to you Dr Seuss, his best guidance for life Quotes

Happy Birthday to you, Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss seated at desk covered with his books, World Telegram and Sun photo by Al Ravenna
Dr Seuss seated at desk covered with his books, World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna, 1957

Dr. Seuss would be 112 today, and certainly the non-conforming characters in his books never felt like acting their age, or following conventional wisdom, instead they offered sage advice for breaking out of the box, and being yourself, without limits.

The Cat in the Hat, among others, I read to a foster child in my care and took inspiration from it, myself.

Happy Birthday to You, Dr Seuss
Happy Birthday to You, Dr Seuss, 1959

Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote some 60 books, selling over 600 million copies, whose challenging quotes still resonate today. His birthday, March 2, has become the annual date for National Read Across America Day and comes the day before World Book Day.

“The more that you read, The more things you will know.
The more that you learn, The more places you’ll go.”
I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (1978)

Theodor Seuss Geisel, author, illustrator, cartoonist

Geisel said he was saving the name ‘Geisel’ for the Great American Novel, instead he began to use his pen name ‘Dr. Seuss’ during his time studying at Dartmouth College and continued whilst studying for a PhD in English Literature at the University of Oxford (which he did not finish, though in 1956 Dartmouth awarded him an honorary doctorate). It was at Dartmouth, as editor of a humour magazine, that he was caught drinking gin with friends in his room, during the time of Prohibition, and so with encouragement from his Professor of Rhetoric he continued clandestinely under his nom de plume. He once described himself as “subversive as hell”.

America First, and the wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones but those were foreign children and it really didn't matter, Dr SeussFrom 1927 he worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for Vanity Fair, Life, and other publications, including as chief political cartoonist for the New York newspaper, 1941-43. At the latter newspaper, he produced some 400 political cartoons such as this one:

America First, “and the wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones but those were foreign children and it really didn’t matter”.

Perhaps, as relevant now under Donald Trump’s presidency as during the 1940s.

Dr Seuss at work on a drawing of The Grinch for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 1957
Dr Seuss at work on a drawing of The Grinch for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 1957

During World War II, he joined the Army in 1943 as a Captain and was made commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces.

 

His first children’s book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street did not appear until 1937 and his most famous, The Cat in the Hat, only came out in 1957.

Top 12 Best Dr Seuss Life Lessons Quotes

Or perhaps just 8, given that some are of uncertain attribution, even though they are Seuss-ian in nature and intent.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Happy Birthday to You! (1959)

If I ran the Zoo, Dr Seuss
If I ran the Zoo, Dr Seuss, 1950

“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

“‎Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen Hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regrets. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.”

If I ran the Circus, Dr Seuss
If I ran the Circus, Dr Seuss, 1956

“You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990)

“And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed!” – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990)

“Don’t give up! I believe in you all
A person’s a person, no matter how small!
And you very small persons will not have to die
If you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!” – Horton Hears a Who! (1954)

The Cat in the Hat, Dr Seuss
The Cat in the Hat, Dr Seuss, 1957

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” – The Lorax (1971)

“Only you can control your future.”

“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” – actually Robert Fulghum, True Love (1997)

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out” – of doubtful attribution

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” – of doubtful attribution

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – of doubtful attribution

Oh the Thinks you can Think, Dr Seuss
Oh the Thinks you can Think, Dr Seuss, 1975

Dr Seuss (originally pronounced Soice) wrote and illustrated subversively to open minds, encourage liberal reading and adventurous lives. Horton hears a Who! was allegedly an allegory of the Hiroshima bombing. Thomas Fensch describes its ideas as “universal, multinational, multi-ethnic. In a word: Equality.” – Fensch, Thomas, The Man Who Was Dr. Seuss, (2001).

He even wrote under a female pen name, Rosetta Stone, Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!! (1975). He remains loved and controversial to this day, but with some books still achieving half-million-a year book sales, he can definitely rest assured that he encouraged millions to read.

 Dr Seuss Quotes and misquotes

Dr Seuss Quotes and misquotes
 Dr Seuss Quotes and misquotes

Dr Seuss Quotes and misquotes

Time Magazine list of top 100 most-read female writers in college

Top 100 Female writers in college

TIME Magazine 100 Most Read Female Authors on Campus
TIME Magazine 100 Most Read Female Authors on Campus

Today Time reported on the top 100 most-read female writers on college syllabi drawn from the Open Syllabus Project‘s collection of over 1.1 million course syllabi referencing 933,635 texts. Unfortunately, Time fell foul of a schoolboy error, thinking that the creator of Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, was a woman. Akin to thinking George Eliot was a man, she was in fact one Mary Ann Evans. Whilst they soon changed it to another undoubtedly female author they could not stop the error-spotting pedants’ scoop circulating on social media.

Historically, over the last 15 years, some 20,214 syllabi have featured William Shakespeare. Plato, Marx and Freud, and 13 other male writers precede the first female author on the list: A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian. The current course texts list includes at #5 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein ahead of Aristotle’s Ethics, and Turabian’s work at #13.

Evelyn Waugh, He-Evelyn or She-Evelyn?

So, not a female writer then! But also, not an uncommon mistake as Waugh himself pointed out:

“I was christened Arthur Evelyn St John: the first name after my father, the second from a whim of my mother’s. I have never liked the name. In America it is used only of girls and from time to time even in England it has caused confusion as to my sex.” – Evelyn Waugh, A Little Learning: The First Volume of an Autobiography

Following TIME magazine‘s gendered mistake, the Independent in its ante-penultimate weekend issue seem to have made the same error:

“When Evelyn Waugh was listed recently among Time magazine’s top 100 female writers, it made me wonder how Evelyn’s books would be reviewed and marketed if she had written them now. In 1928, Decline and Fall was lauded as a viciously funny social satire; but would the same novel by Mrs Waugh be read as semi-autobiographical flimflam about a wedding? A Handful of Dust: a condemnation of the futility of humanist philosophy, or a thinly disguised roman à clef? Vile Bodies was a dark view of a decadent, doomed generation, but today’s Evelyn would have had her novel forced into pink covers, renamed Pretty Young Things and marketed as a romcom.”

Waugh, not a fan of punctuality, considered it a virtue only for the bored – much like Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps he had a similar attitude to accuracy! Certainly, he thought gendered division by sex “absurd”:

“Instead of this absurd division into sexes they ought to class people as static and dynamic.” – Evelyn Waugh

In 1927 Waugh got engaged to one Evelyn Gardner, yes another Evelyn, and they were affectionately known as He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn, though the marriage only lasted a year owing to She-Evelyn’s unfaithfulness with a mutual friend rather more simply named John. During the decline and fall of their marriage, Waugh’s first book and social satire, Decline and Fall, became successful. The first edition bore a note from the author:

“Please bear in mind throughout that IT IS MEANT TO BE FUNNY.”

One imagines that is probably how he would see his name being on an all-female writers list!

St Julian of Norwich

The actual first woman to write a book in the English language, Revelations of Divine Love (1395), was an anchoress attached to the Church of St Julian in Norwich. She is even named ‘Julian’ from the church cell she occupied as her actual name is not known.

Gender bending Authors

The use of a cross-gender pen name has been around for centuries, in the main for female authors trying to get published or taken seriously in the predominantly male domain of publishing.

George Eliot

Whilst Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote as female, Mary Ann Evans chose to use the nom de plume of George Eliot to avoid Victorian romantic stereotyping of her writing. Instead, she wrote seven serious and substantial novels including Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), and Daniel Deronda (1876). Middlemarch is currently #331 on the list of over 900,000 texts.

George Sand

TIME Magazine 100 Most Read Female Writers in CollegeAnother female author said that “My name is not Marie-Aurore de Saxe, Marquise of Dudevant, as several of my biographers have asserted, but Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin”, in fact, nineteenth century French novelist Aurore wrote under the more familiar name George Sand. Apart from novels and a memoir of an affair with Chopin, Sand wrote works of literary criticism, socialist political and feminist activism. At the outset of the 1848 French Revolution she founded a workers’ co-operative newspaper. The Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev said of her:

“What a brave man she was, and what a good woman.”

She even began wearing male attire in public, claiming it was more practical and hardwearing. It also gave her access to places more typically dressed French noble women might have been barred from. It didn’t stop the criticism of her smoking in public, then frowned upon for women. Her most well known and most-translated work La Mare Au Diable (1846) “The Devil’s Pool” appears at #24,956 on the Open Syllabus list and has even been reinterpreted as a contrasexual queer novel once the author’s female gender is acknowledged.

Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell

Never heard of them? Well Ellis was in fact Emily Brontë, author of Wuthering Heights (1847) #680. Currer was Charlotte Brontë, the writer of Jane Eyre (1847) #406. Acton was Anne, author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) #27,436. All three Brontë sisters first published under their male pen names a volume of poetry, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846).

Isak Dinesen

Isak Dinesen or indeed Pierre Andrézel were in fact the Danish female author Karen Dinesen who became Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. She is best known for two literary works that became films, Out of Africa (1937) #6,151 and Babette’s Feast (1958).

Harper Lee

Harper Lee the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) #255, who died last week, was born Nelle (Ellen spelled backwards, her grandmother’s name) but wrote under the gender ambiguous name Harper. Harper as a forename is derived from the Middle English surname for a harpist, and is most commonly a boy’s name but does feature in girl’s names lists, even as high as #89 in the UK (2014).

JK Rowling

The Harry Potter novels author, Joanne Rowling, has written as JK and as Robert Galbraith. It was her publishers who asked that she use use initials to aid appeal to the male young adult market. Her highest novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is ranked #4,599 by the Open Syllabus Explorer.

EL James & LS Hilton

Maestra, Lisa LS Hilton
Maestra, LS Hilton

Writing under gender-neutral initials rather than a gender-outing first name is becoming all too common. Following in JK Rowling’s footsteps, five years ago, Erika Leonard aka EL James wrote Fifty Shades of Grey. Now Lisa Hilton, writing as LS, breaks onto the erotic literary scene with her – or should that be an ‘unouted’ their, 2016 book in the now obligatory three parts. Maestra (published 10 March) is a sexy but classy romp in the art world, a far cry from her academic literary biographies written as Lisa.

Male to Female Pseudonyms

The eighteenth century American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin penned works under pseudonyms. He chose Richard Saunders but also Alice Addertongue, Polly Baker, Martha Careful, and Caelia Shortface. The 1747 Speech of Polly Baker by Franklin was an early woman’s rights protest against the way women were hounded and charged for having illegitimate children not the fathers. 250 years later societies are still trying to solve that injustice.

Even Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum, wrote books for a female audience using feminine pseudonyms: Edith Van Dyne, Laura Bancroft, and Suzanne Metcalf.

Changing Sex POV

Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, Stephanie Meyer
Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, Stephanie Meyer

It is a common writing exercise and literary device to change the gendered Point of View (POV) of an author and have them write from the viewpoint of a main protagonist who is of a gender different to that of the author. A variation on this is what Twilight author Stephanie Meyer intends to do with the release of her gender-switched tenth anniversary rewrite of the novel. Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined features a male human Beau and female vampire Edythe, transposing the original roles, allegedly to prove the original intended no patronising damsel in distress stereotype.

Sex and Gender Bias

It’s been sadly proven that job applications, manuscript submissions are affected by gender bias. It is a very interesting psycho-social experiment to degender authorship and identity, to third-person neutral gender reference work colleagues by their job proficiency and not by their sex. Perhaps all authors should use initials? I often use just KJ so as not reveal my gender or even transgender by my fully spelled out name, Katy Jon.

RIP Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Magical Realist, Nobel Prize novelist, author of 100 Years of Solitude

The colourful Colombian Nobel novelist Gabriel García Márquez died in April at the ripe old age of 87 at his home in Mexico City. Although solitude was a recurring theme in his novels he leaves behind his wife of 56 years and two children. Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez, or Gabo, was born in March 1927 and at 45 he won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature and at 55 the Nobel Prize in Literature. He started out in law, but abandoned that for journalism and work as a foreign correspondent. He wrote for Bogotá’s El Espectador newspaper in the 1940s.

His literary style has been termed magical realism, a style that began in Latin American/Hispanic writing and which contains fantasy or unnatural elements in otherwise commonplace, mundane ordinary life. Think, Guillermo del Toro movies! No, not, Kung Fu Panda 2 but perhaps Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) or Cronos (1993). Surrealism, symbolism and subtle historical satire also make regular appearances as if works of surrealist art rendered in literary form.

As a result of this Spanish-language literature emerging from South America in the 1960s, it has also been called the Latin American Boom with such literary giants as Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel García Márquez being key figures in its development and global renown.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez One Hundred Years of SolitudeHis most famous novel was One Hundred Years of Solitude (“Cien años de soledad”), published in 1967, and declared by a NY Times review to be “required reading for the entire human race” and the Guardian as “kaleidoscopically, mysteriously alive”. It has been translated into more than two dozen languages and sold tens of millions of copies.

“It’s just a small thing to even call it a book. It is a whole universe that’s been created that you’re being asked to step into.” – Patricia Smith, Associate Professor of Creative Writing, City University of New York

The book begins with the family patriarch’s scion, the now Colonel Aureliano Buendía, looking back on his childhood whilst facing a firing squad. Very evocative of an older era of Hispanic revolutionary times. The description of the early village settlement of Macondo, nestled on the bank of a river containing “polished stones…white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names…” is Edenic and utopic. Then comes the mysterious Melquíades and his gypsies, inventions, alchemy and a secret manuscript that would remain undeciphered for 7 generations of the somewhat doomed to repeat history family – another Latin American trait, fatalism. As his biographer Gerald Martin told AP it was “the first novel in which Latin Americans recognized themselves, that defined them, celebrated their passion, their intensity, their spirituality and superstition, their grand propensity for failure”.

Salman Rushdie described it as the “greatest novel in any language of the last 50 years”, but it wasn’t just any language, it was Spanish – a language almost as suited as English to passionate expression, with so many evocative words and idioms. It is said that English has perhaps twice as many words at its disposal but that “doesn’t mean that it can’t be just as expressive as English; sometimes it is more so.”

“One feature that Spanish has when compared to English is a flexible word order. Thus the distinction that is made in English between “dark night” and “gloomy night” might be made in Spanish by saying noche oscura and oscura noche, respectively. Spanish also has two verbs that are the rough equivalent of the English “to be,” and the choice of verb can change the meaning (as perceived by English speakers) of other words in the sentence. Thus estoy enferma (“I am sick”) is not the same as soy enferma (“I am sickly”). Spanish also has verb forms, including a much-used subjunctive mood, that can provide nuances of meaning sometimes absent in English. Finally, Spanish speakers frequently use suffixes to provide shades of meaning.”

I remember trying to read a Márquez novel in a post-A level Spanish literary class, and needing a dictionary constantly in hand. Though that interrupted the the flow of the narrative and slowed the comprehension, I was no less enthralled by the beauty and colour of the language, readily understood or not.

Márquez has been described as “the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century” and as having “outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible.”

Upon accepting the 1982 Noble Prize for Literature, Márquez situated his fictional writing firmly in the real, the political, the crucible of civil wars, revolutions, exiles, people ‘disappeared’, “between reality and nostalgia was the raw material for my work”:

“The country that could be formed of all the exiles and forced emigrants of Latin America would have a population larger than that of Norway. I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters [Nobel committee]. A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.”

The opening lines of Love in the Time of Cholera (“El amor en los tiempos del cólera”, 1985) are literally bittersweet:

“It was inevitable: The scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love…his most sympathetic opponent in chess, had escaped the torments of memory with the aromatic fumes of gold cyanide.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Love in the time of choleraWritten 18 years after One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera is less fantastical but no less magical. Described as “a compelling exploration of the myths we make of love” by Barbara Hoffert, in the Library Journal, and the Independent wrote of it that “Few have written so passionately about the power of love”. The Daily Telegraph said of Márquez’ writing, that it was “Quite the nearest thing to sensual pleasure that prose can offer.”

In all the apparent hopelessness of Latin American existence, he, nonetheless, writes of a triumph of hope over experience and celebrates love in its many forms, including lovesickness, and at every age, even in the twilight of our lives. He reached the twilight of his existence and will remain loved by his family, fellow Latin Americans, and avid readers from most every nation alive.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said of Márquez that he was Colombia’s “most loved and admired compatriot of all time” and has announced three days of official mourning.

[This article was first published here]

Novels

  • In Evil Hour (1962)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
  • The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975)
  • Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)
  • The General in His Labyrinth (1989)
  • Of Love and Other Demons (1994)

Novellas

  • Leaf Storm (1955)
  • No One Writes to the Colonel (1961)
  • Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981)
  • Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004)

Short Story Collections

  • Eyes of a Blue Dog (1947)
  • Big Mama’s Funeral (1962)
  • The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother (1978)
  • Collected Stories (1984)
  • Strange Pilgrims (1993)

Non-fiction Books

  • The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor (1970)
  • The Solitude of Latin America (1982)
  • The Fragrance of Guava (1982, with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza)
  • Clandestine in Chile (1986)
  • News of a Kidnapping (1996)
  • A Country for Children (1998)
  • Living to Tell the Tale (2002)