Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dr Seuss: Genius and gin

Dr Seuss
DR SEUSS: Ted Geisel's widow says she created his look. "He had a nose that was looking for a beard all his life.''
Right - The Bippolo Seed and other Lost Stories by Dr Seuss, published by HarperCollins, $26.99.

The rhyming magic of Dr Seuss is back with a 'new' collection of lost stories. Kim Knight looks at Ted Geisel's legacy and how his creativity endures.

Legend has it a bottle of gin led to the creation of Dr Seuss.
It's the early 1920s and Theodor "Ted" Geisel is drinking in his Dartmouth College dorm room. Busted, he is banned from writing for the university's magazine. He takes his middle name (and his mother's maiden name), adds a "Dr" to the pseudonym – and the rest is publishing history.
True story?
"I think he was a fun guy," says a diplomatic Susan Brandt, La Jolla, California-based licensing and marketing president of Dr Seuss Enterprises. "I think perhaps that might have happened."
Brandt is charged with "strengthening and protecting the relationship consumers have with Dr Seuss characters". This week, that means a duck called McKluck, a goldfish called Gustav and the great Henry McBride – a young boy dreaming of the man he might become.
The characters feature in The Bippolo Seed and other Lost Stories, the first new book in a decade from the man whose Cat in the Hat (using just 236 easy-to-teach words) changed the way children learned to read.
The "new" stories were originally published in American magazine Redbook.
"In the 50s, Ted was actually publishing books. But, as was typical of many authors at the time, he submitted short stories to magazines."
Seuss succumbed to cancer in 1991, aged 87. Four months before his death he received a letter from a woman who had kept her magazine copy of The Bippolo Seed. "She had read it and reread it and it had become so worn she had actually retyped it. And in the letter, she asked him why it had not been made into a book... and it took us 20 years to get it there," says Brandt.
Its release is a well-oiled publicity machine. YouTube clips feature "dentist by profession, Seussologist by obsession" Dr Charles Cohen, talking about the copies of the magazine stories he found for sale on eBay. There he is, with his figurine collection, and a surgery where patients' drool is collected on paper napkins decorated with Seuss characters.
"Together with Charles we combed the marketplace and found all these lost stories and gathered them together... I doubt there is any more [material] out there," says Brandt.
The book – produced in full colour unavailable to the original publishers – is the first since Daisy-Head Mayzie, which was based on an unrealised screenplay discovered among the author's papers. The new stories have full approval of Geisel's widow and second wife Audrey.
Full piece at Sunday Star Times.

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