Dr. Seuss's New Metaphors
We'll forgo the general-interest material (don't worry! it's coming!) in favor of further illustration of the concepts I presented in my last Q&A. One of my dear Philistines has a question about applying the concepts to a moderately famous piece of writing:
Q. Can you show us how much stupendously better The Cat in the Hat would be if only you'd been around when Dr. Seuss originally and ignorantly penned it, assuming he knew who you were and took lessons from you and actually did what you suggested?
A. I can, and when I'm done, I think we'll all agree it would have been a much stronger novel. Here's the opening paragraph:
The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
All that cold, cold wet day.
It's pitiful, isn't it?
Q. Pitiful as a one-legged puppy.
A. Exactly. Notice the distinct lack of a dead body, the unresolved information issues (what state is the house in? what day of the year? what was the exact temperature in Kelvins?), and the lack of emotionally-charged dialogue and emotionally-laden words. No thesaurus work, either. The author does get one thing right: "we" is mysteriously gender-neutral. Yet we're not going to fix it up as a hook--
A. No, dear Philistine, we're going to vividify the imagery by inserting simile and metaphor. It clearly needs it. The author even resorts to illustrations to help us imagine the scene!
A. Quite. Here's a version of it with my inspired imagery:
The sun was as bright as a black hole.
Outside, the wind threw water against the window like a deranged automated car wash.
We sat in the house like a couple of little old ladies.
It was cold and wet outside like a sock that's been dipped in the toilet and hung on the shower curtain rod to dry.
Q. Love the sock-in-the-toilet part.
A. Fetching, isn't it?
Q. Oh, yeah.
A. Now, we aren't finished with it, because we can still strengthen our similes by turning them into metaphors. Recall that, to do so, we lie about the actual nature of things.
Q. Dirty liars, all of us.
A. Not dirty, but liars, yes. Here's the new version:
The sun was a black hole.
Outside, a deranged automated car wash threw water against the window.
We, a couple of little old ladies, sat in the house.
Our house was inside a sock that had been dipped in the toilet and hung on the shower curtain rod to dry.
Q. It's a one-legged puppy!
A. Actually, it appears to be a psychedelic science fiction story--like Philip K. Dick might have written--about two little old ladies that live in a house next to a deranged car wash, inside a wet sock on a shower curtain rod that orbits a black hole.
Q. It does appear so, yes.
A. But if you read between the lines--which any half-literate reader will be able to do--you'll see that the old ladies are actually two children, and that the car wash and wet sock represent the weather. It's obvious.
Q. Obvious as a one-legged puppy.
A. Enough with the puppy already. Anyway, it's too bad Theodor Geisel is dead. He could have used my inspired guidance. Think of all the books he could have sold.