Louis Menand on the Dr. Suess’s Cat in the Hat:

[T]his is a story about a woman who leaves two very young children alone at home all day with the front door unlocked, under the supervision of a fish. […]

Where is the mom? That’s really the question that all readers want to know. What kind of dangerous mission is she on? Is it an erotic errand, possibly a murderous errand? We don’t know. But the thing is that she is clearly behaving in a transgressive way […]

[T]he cat is this polymorphous character who is of indeterminate sexuality, who unleashes these two—we have to call them personified genitalia. I mean, what are they named? Thing One and Thing Two. That’s a very ancient Anglo-Saxon colloquialism. And these libidinal creatures run around the house. They terrify the children, who kind of capture them with a net. And then the cat puts them back in a box, of course, and takes them out again. But he’s introducing them to their libidos, ‘cause they’re very uptight little persons, Sally and me.

‘In this box are two things I will show to you now. You will like these two things,’ said the cat with a bow. ‘These things will not bite you, they want to have fun.’ Then out of the box came Thing 2 and Thing 1. And they ran to us fast. They said, ‘How do you do? Would you like to shake hands with Thing 1 and Thing 2?’ And Sally and I did not know what to do, so we had to shake hands with Thing 1 and Thing 2. We shook their two hands, but our fish said, ‘No, no. Those things should not be in this house. Make them go. They should not be here when your mother is not. Put them out, put them out,’ said the fish in the pot.

Source: Cat in the Hat, All Things Considered. Quotes taken from NPR transcript.

More: Cat People.

And while we’re quoting Louis Menand…

Katharine White once wrote to Norman Mailer asking if he would care to contribute a story to the magazine. He would not, Mailer replied, because he did not have the freedom to say “shit” in the New Yorker. White wrote back to suggest that perhaps Mr. Mailer did not understand the true meaning of freedom. Mailer answered that he did indeed understand the meaning of freedom: freedom meant being able to say “shit” in the New Yorker. n3


n3. See Norman Mailer, The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, The Novel as History (New York: New American Library, 1968), 26.

Source: Louis Menand, A Friend Writes: The Old New Yorker, included in American Studies

posted January 09, 2004 12:30 PM (Politics) (2 comments) #


Plea for Help
Is it moral to plead the Fifth?
Unspeakable Things
Apple’s Secret Strategy: TV for Everyone
Counterpoint: Downloading Isn’t Stealing
Cat in the Hat: Harmful to Minors?
Shorter Paul O’Neill
Jefferson: Nature Wants Information to Be Free
C-SPAN Crossfire
Shorter George Lakoff: The Framing of Politics
Bush Fear


“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” The obvious corollary being that simply because one has the right to do (or not do) something, does not necessarily make it a good idea. (And regarding your piece that almost ran in the New York Times, just because the mob of “democracy” want to do something doesn’t mean they have the right to do it. “If a million people do a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”)


PS: Keep on bloggin’ (and coding :)

posted by damaged justice at January 11, 2004 09:04 AM #

Could Louis Menand be anymore up tight is the real question here folks. Its a childrens story for (un-“P.C.” word) sake. I’ve read numerous stories where the author gives an animal human attributes. I believe that in Dr. Suess’ world a fish is perfectly capable of babysitting a couple of kids. Get a better hobby buddy.

posted by matt at March 21, 2004 07:12 PM #

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