The Lorax, revisited

What do we think of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax these days?

I recall the book from my past, though I don’t exactly remember it from my childhood.  I’m not sure if I read it back then.  Being someone who cares about the environment and loves Dr. Seuss on what feels like a cellular level, I bought a copy (printed on recycled paper) for my two-year-old daughter.

She discovered it last week.

Discovering a book, for her, usually means that she wants her parents or any other literate person who happens to be around to read the book several times per day.  But the Lorax is long, and we didn’t make it to the end of the story for the first few days of its discovery.

But my husband and I both want to hide the book, and dread it being handed to us by the little waif who lives in our house.  I think there are two reasons for this.

1) It’s really, really too long.  I think it could be cut down by half, and would be a much stronger book.  The number of clunky sentences in this book is astonishing, considering who wrote it.  And I think this is because:

2) The genius of Dr. Seuss seems to be squelched, choked, or otherwise obscured by HAVING AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE.  Sure, there are messages in plenty of his books, and even though I agree with most of the message in this one (rampant, irresponsible industry=bad, trees=pretty) his message seems to have bent the tree of his narrative over too far, so that in a way it resembles a dying version of one of the book’s skewed, leaning, tufted trees.

As a writer, this is a really good lesson to learn (over and over again, each time my little cherub brings me the dreaded book).  If you have AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE (which is fine, and has its place) please make sure that the message doesn’t wilt the narrative.

And cut everything down by half.  But not the trees.

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4 responses to “The Lorax, revisited

  1. I have strong political beliefs, and those ideas find their way into my fiction, but I’ve found over the years that when I start with the political idea, rather than just writing a story, I get a heavy handed unreadable diatribe. I figure that writers whose political ideas aren’t just simple surface things but beliefs integrated into who they are will end up expressing those ideas in a story naturally. But the story should start somewhere else to make this work.

    • Nancy, I think you’re right. It’s a matter of what the intentions are. A too-heavy-handed message can really screw up what would be a good story, at least that’s what I think happened with the Lorax. But I’m still keeping an open mind about it, because I’m sure I’ll be reading it for a long while…

  2. The Lorax is my husband’s alter-ego. I confess I have not actually read the book in years, so while I remember and appreciate the message, I can’t relate to your comments. That is, however, a good lesson for the writers among us!

  3. I am starting to wonder if I sounded too harsh on the book. I completely appreciate the message, it’s just the writing that I have trouble with.

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