I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (review)
If you were to ask a random person to name a Dr. Seuss book, one-third would name The Cat in the Hat, one-third would name Green Eggs and Ham, and the rest of the answers would be spread out amongst Dr. Seuss' other dozens of books.
The artistic and literary style of Dr. Seuss are so well-known for anyone who has grown up since 1960, that exposure to his works is almost unnecessary. Sometime around the age of five or six, every American child (I don't know if this is true in other English speaking countries) learns the plot to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who, simply by osmosis.
And these are two reasons why I decided on a whim to pick up "I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew" at the library. It was a Dr. Seuss book that has somehow escaped the process of cultural osmosis. The title wasn't even familiar to me, although if asked, I would have said it certainly sounded like a Dr. Seuss title. But the plot and theme (and allegorical interpretation) were totally new to me.
In a strange way, this was the first Dr. Seuss book I have read.
The plot consists of our young narrator, living in the Valley of Vung, who is happy until he trips on some rocks and gets bitten by some birds, and then hears of "Solla Sollew, where they never have troubles, at least very few". The narrator sets out with another seeker, but he runs into misfortune after misfortune, trying to find Solla Sollew. He has to carry a camel up a mountain, gets drafted to fight some cat-beasts, gets swept up in a flood, and generally has an unpleasant time, but tells himself that it will be worth it when he comes to Solla Sollew. However, when he finds Solla Sollew it turns out that it has problems of its own. The book ends with him returning to the Valley of Vung, deciding to fight his troubles instead of chasing after perfection.
As mentioned, pretty much everyone has knowledge of Dr. Seuss' style. Its kind of odd to think about what it would be like to read this book without that background. What is the narrator, exactly? Roughly human but shaggy. The terrain, in Seussian style, is full of pinnacles of bright colors that defy the laws of physics. The language consists of many made up non-sense syllables. All things that we have come to expect from Seuss, but which must have been jarring to young children raised on Dick and Jane.
And like many of Seuss' books, it contains a moral, and it is a tribute to the book that I can't quite say what the moral is. It could be seen as a story about confronting troubles instead of wishing for something else. It might be a humorous lesson that nothing is ever as easy as it seems. It could be more topical humor about people who promise a political or social utopia. I don't know, and while I perhaps could look it up, I enjoy guessing.
It is also interesting to note that the two books which Seuss is best known for, The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, were not totally typical of his style, since they were written almost on a dare to prove he could write minimistically. The rhymes in this book are more complicated, and Seuss' vocabulary, both standard and invented, lends itself to more complex rhyme schemes.
In short, both the project of reading A Dr. Seuss book free of cultural sediment, and the actual book "I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew", were worthwhile.