November 30, 2005


The Good “Dr.”: The liberal who wrote a great conservative book. (John J. Miller, 11/21/03, National Review)

So what are conservatives to do with Seuss? I say read him, because most of his books are incredible fun — but also choose wisely. My favorite Seuss book is one that many people don't know about: I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965). Seuss may not have realized it, but the theme of Solla Sollew is powerfully conservative.

Unfortunately, it was not Seuss's most commercially successful book — sales were disappointing, even though it was written and issued during his heyday. The Morgan's describe the book this way: "a somber morality tale, a Seussian Pilgrim's Progress with the message that one can't run away from trouble." Yet it's far deeper than that. In truth, Solla Sollew is a warning against what Eric Voegelin called immanentizing the eschaton. Put in plain English: Don't seek heaven on earth.

The unnamed narrator — one of Seuss's typical cat-like creatures — joins an odd fellow on his way to the City of Solla Sollew, which is

On the banks of the beautiful River Wah-Hoo,
Where they never have troubles! At least, very few.

It is, in short, Utopia. Trying to reach this impossible place, the narrator embarks on a series of misadventures, including an encounter with a loony knight who bellows, "I'm General Genghis Kahn Schmitz." ("The finest line I have ever written," Seuss once said.) Ultimately, he arrives at the outskirts of Solla Sollew — but he can't get inside. It seems that a key has been lost. Everybody's locked out. Frustrated, the city's gatekeeper declares that he's had enough:

And I'm off to the city of Boola Boo Ball
On the banks of the beautiful River Woo-Wall,
Where they never have troubles! No troubles at all!

Ah, yes: a place that's even better than Utopia. By this time, of course, the narrator has caught on. He goes back home to confront his troubles rather than avoid them.

It's a wonderful book with a beautiful message — and in Seuss's liberal universe, perhaps even a subversive one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 30, 2005 3:30 PM

I love that book, Its even better now that I'm older and reading it to my kids. Thanks.

Posted by: Bernie at November 30, 2005 3:56 PM

It seems to me that "Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose" is pretty conservative, as well. I'm surprised it didn't get a mention. It's early, pre-Lorax Seuss, and so not too big a surprise, but considering it was written in 1948, it could almost be taken as an anti-Marshall Plan polemic.

Posted by: Timothy at November 30, 2005 3:56 PM

Horton Hears A Who is also very conservative. I wonder how many pro-lifers that one created? How The Grinch Stole Christmas also has a religiously conservative message, right down to the Grinch having a fallen, sinful nature instead of a reason for hating Christmas.

In fact, all of his best books are conservative.

Posted by: Buttercup at November 30, 2005 4:25 PM

The Cat in the Hat is also, in the end, a message against both sloth and anarchy, while you can go back to World War II to look at both the political cartoons he did for the New York newspaper PM, and his story work for Warner Bros. on their cartoons for the U.S. Army to see a really pro-military preparedness-themed Dr. Seuss.

Posted by: John at November 30, 2005 6:58 PM

Note also that Seuss regularly slammed whole language procedures for teaching kids to read, and threw his support behind the phonics movement. Like so many people, he was a liberal except in the area he knew best.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at November 30, 2005 10:01 PM

Yertle the Turtle also has a strong 'conservative' message.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 30, 2005 11:12 PM

Miller wrote a nice article on C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia in the current NRODT.

Posted by: jdkelly at December 1, 2005 6:54 PM