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