Theodor Geisel; the author and illustrator popularly known as Dr. Seuss, was as bizarre as anything in any of this books.
A new autobiography Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones reveals Geisel was one of the strangest Americans who ever lived.
Some Bizarre things about Dr. Seuss you did not know include:
- He probably invented the world nerd. In fact, the first documented use of nerd was in Seuss’s 1950 book If I ran the Zoo, Geek.com reports. However, Geisel uses nerd to describe an imaginary animal rather than a geek
- He was a decorated Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. The Army promoted Geisel to Lt. Colonel on 13 January 1946. Seuss received the promotion and the Legion of Merit medal for his service creating propaganda and training films during World War II.
- Seuss created wartime propaganda so racist; General Douglas MacArthur found it offensive. MacArthur ordered Geisel’s propaganda film Our Job in Japan suppressed in March 1946. To clarify, the movie was so racist; MacArthur was afraid it could poison US-Japanese relations, Jones writes. MacArthur was commanding US occupation forces in Japan at the time. Our Job in Japan stayed in the vaults until 1977.
- Seuss won two Academy Awards. Two Seuss productions the propaganda documentary Design for Death and the Gerald McBoing-Boing won Oscars. Geisel believed he deserved a third Oscar for the documentary; Hitler Lives because it was a re-cut of his wartime propaganda picture Our Job in Germany. However, producer Sid Rogell took the Oscar for Hitler Lives; home because his name was on the picture.
- His name really was Seuss. To explain, Geisel’s full name was Theodor Seuss Geisel. Thus, Seuss is Dr. Seuss’s middle name.
- He was not a doctor. Instead, Seuss adopted the title as a joke when he drew magazine cartoons in the 1920s.
- Even though he was an environmentalist Seuss; once made his living by drawing advertisements for insecticide. Bizarrely, Seuss first became famous in the 1920s and 1930s by drawing ads for Flit bug killer. Yet Seuss later wrote and drew the controversial environmentalist classic The Lorax.
- Dr. Seuss created one of the first adult graphic novels. In 1939 Seuss published what he called his “naked lady book;” The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family. In detail, the tale was a picture book for adults about naked ladies. Commercially, The Seven Lady Godivas was a miserable failure; but it anticipates both the underground comics of the 1960s and the graphic novels of 1980s. Thus, Seuss was far ahead of his time.
- America’s most famous children’s book author had no children. Seuss and his first wife; Helen, had no kids. Geisel had two stepchildren through his second wife, however.
- Dr. Seuss hated most children’s books. In a July 1949 lecture at the University of Utah, Geisel mocked the plot of most children’s books as “bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny.” Seuss despised children’s books because he felt they insulted children’s intelligence.
Jones portrays Seuss as one of America’s strangest and most complex literary figures. If you think of Seuss as just a kindly children’s book author, you will be in for many surprises in the pages of Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of An American Imagination.