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One website wills a wonderful whopper

March 15, 2008 |  1:14 am

Maybe you too remember sitting in high school English, perhaps wishing you were instead reclining under a tree listening to birds discuss their day, and hearing with astonishment classmates all around you describe a literary passage that you were certain had to do with a man and woman riding a careening sled down a steep hill and discovering that, in point of fact, it was really a description of European civilization rushing headlong into a colossal world war that would claim the lives of millions.

And you flipped back and forth in the book in teenage desperation trying to find the slightest reference to guns and death. And felt rather perplexed, like the guy watching the parade with the naked emperor while the crowd praises his gorgeous raiments.

And the teacher was nodding and celebrating his apprentice literary interpreters who saw so many things that simply weren't there. But it was all part of learning.

Well, that's the way you too might feel clicking through an intriguing new photo gallery on this website where our Times colleague Deborah Netburn chats with Philip Nel. Stick with us here, there really is a political point.

Nel, it turns out, is author of "Dr. Seuss: American Icon." And with the....

occasion of this weekend's opening of the movie "Horton Hears a Who!," Nel describes all kinds of political symbols and political meanings buried within the wonderfully weird and whimsical writings that you used to read, over and over and over again, to your own little people who had just brushed their teeth and said their prayers and thought, like you, that the story at hand was about green eggs and ham and how yucky they would be.

But no. All of these rhyming things were actually statements against fascism and other political elements that bothered the creative mind of La Jolla's Dr. Seuss. It turns out, according to Nel, that "Horton Hears a Who!" is really about Brown vs. Board of Education and establishing equal rights for minorities, although a quick check of one well-worn copy found no reference to the National Guard or Central High School.

Also it had to do with the growth of oriental style political democracy in postwar Japan. Which doesn't rhyme. But that's tough tomatoes, because you'll have to check all this out for yourself by clicking here and strolling through the beautifully illustrated explanatory pages.

Because, just like high school, right now we're going in search of that nice tree to mark a primary-free Saturday in peace.

--Andrew Malcolm

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