Thursday, February 10, 2011

Polution (for Pollution)

Yesterday's blog entry mentioned The Lorax, a children's book written by Dr. Seuss in 1971, and reportedly his personal favorite. In 1991, I began the first "Banned Books Week" readings at the New York State Library and chose to read this one, which had been removed from the Laytonville, California, school district because, according to its critics, it "criminalizes the forestry industry." As it happened, Dr. Seuss died just days before the reading, which made it all kind of sad—though I was glad of the opportunity to remember him on that day. But, speaking of censorship, I was surprised to later learn that the first edition of The Lorax included the stanza: "You're glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hum / No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed. / So I'm sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary. / They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary / in search of some water that isn't so smeary. / I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie." Fourteen years later, two research assistants from the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote the author to let him know about the cleanup of Lake Erie and to ask that he remove that last line from any future editions. And Seuss complied. I suppose you could call this an example of "self-censorship" and I really did prefer the original wording, but I do give the good doctor credit for crediting a job well done. There were 20 cases of Polution (for pollution) in OhioLINK and over 500 in WorldCat.

(Trumpeter Swans at Lake Erie, Michigan, Dec. 10, 2010, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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