The ads almost burst off of the teevee in a whirl of color and action. The Lorax, the Movie is here!
It appears to be set after the book and wonderful Chuck Jones cartoon made by Dr. Seuss himself, so they may avoid stepping on the original. But … but …
No. I cannot see the craft of the great Dr. Seuss at all in the brief ads. Let us talk about the craft of rhyme, the meter of language.
I chose this passage from the end of The Lorax to illustrate the power of Seuss and his incredible craft. There was much more to his books than simple children’s stories dotted with great round drawings with odd colors and patterns. His use of language got his message into the guts in ways that generations who grew up with the meter cannot fully understand. That is true power.
In this passage, the meter is actually a bit broken and stilted. But that break adds emphasis to particular words. UNLESS is in caps, but when reading it outloud, as these books must be, the meter falls on “you”. They rub against each other, pulling the reader and the listener into the page in a dialogue, often across generations just before the world of dreams takes over.
“Should I put this speck down? …” Horton thought with alarm.
“If I do, these small persons may come to great harm.
I can’t put it down. And I won’t! After all
A person’s a person. No matter how small.”
The meter and rhyme are why songs get into your head, especially when they have a catchy melody. Rap dispenses with melody and hits you with the power of pure language, which when done well is a blinding force. You can’t ever forget it.
Most people would never say that Dr. Seuss wrote great works of literature, but that was never his intent. He started out as an advertising man, selling Flit bug spray (“Quick Henry, the Flit!”) and other products. And then he wanted to do something more with his talent. The result plays out at many bedtimes every night.
Many of you have read my poems, which appear every few months or so. They aren’t popular in particular, but they have a purpose. All writing must have this sense of rhythm and emphasis if it is going to work. A complete list of my humble works can be found in my portfolio if you’d like to see them. They are as much exercises in my practice of this craft as they are small bits of entertainment.
I was not up to doing such a piece today. I want to know what you think about Dr. Seuss, Rap, Poetry, and the use of rhyme and rhythm in ordinary prose. What do you say when a great work like the Lorax becomes a jumping off point for something so … so terribly ordinary looking?
You won’t see the Once-ler
Don’t knock at his door
He stays in his Lerkim on top of his store
He lurks in his Lerkim, cold under the roof,
where he makes his own clothes
out of miff-muffered moof.
And then there are those words, those invented words that chuff along the bounce of the rhythm. What is the place for them?
While writing is a craft that requires practice and critical observation to hone, not everyone can develop the level of skill practiced by Dr. Seuss. But there is a lot to be learned from his work which can brighten and inform even the driest of subjects. For the Lorax, it is teaching the concepts of balance and love for the world around us. It could preach, but it found another way.
The Once-ler should have been left alone. What should have been revitalized is the skill of Dr. Seuss. But we can all do this if we try.