Made of Books is a monthly column (partly inspired by hero Roxane Gay) where Christina discusses writing that has been meaningful to her, in one way or another.
There’s a photo of me when I was three or four reading to my sister, who was a couple years younger than me. This was the only time I wanted to be around her— when I could read to her. Of course I’m not actually reading. I’m too young to know how. But I knew the story of The Cat in the Hat so well I could recite it from memory. I even turned the pages at the right time.
It’s been years since I’ve picked up any Dr. Seuss book, and I was sad to realize there isn’t one anywhere in the four six-foot tall bookshelves in my apartment. I think my sister surreptitiously wrangled them— Cat in the Hat, Fox in Socks, Green Eggs in Ham, Hop on Pop, The Sneetches— out of my parents’s house before I could.
I don’t remember the plots of most of the stories, but those books loom large in my psyche as the books that started my love of reading. They showed me fantastical, magical, weird worlds: six-foot tall cat and a talking fish, big-bellied creatures arguing about whether or not stars were better, an excitable, anthropomorphic fox who liked to rhyme. It is no surprise to me that people get Dr.Seuss tattoos.
The impact of reading these books is something I can’t quite quantify. I rarely think of Dr.Seuss but when I do, I slip back to the ‘80s when I was a kid, back to the couch or the bed where I had been reading, where I was holding those thin, hard-covered books like precious objects. I would rather pretend to read a book than play with my siblings. I remember the first story I wrote, sitting at the coffee table in the living room, scrawling in giant letters a story about a magic present— the kind of character that could be in a Dr. Seuss story.
Mary Karr aptly summed up why reading is so powerful and pleasurable, “Reading is socially accepted disassociation. You flip a switch and you’re not there anymore. It’s better than heroin. More effective and cheaper and legal.”
Dr.Seuss showed me how to do this, taught me how to stretch my imagination to let other people, places, and ideas in, and instilled in me a life-long love of doing so. Now, my sister is having a baby and will no doubt read to her child the same books my parents read to us when we were younger. I could be mis-remembering this, but I think Fox in Socks was her favorite of our Dr.Seuss books. Like Knox, I wanted to be left alone—with my books—but like Fox she bugged and bothered and to this day, loves crazy socks.