The Story Behind The Newly Discovered Dr. Seuss Book

Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Theodor Seuss Geisel—who was already beloved for his many Dr. Seuss books—penned a draft for What Pet Should I Get? Although the book made it through many rounds of Seuss' laborious self-editing to the final stage of preparation—which features words typed on small squares of paper and taped in place on the artwork—it was never published. Now, almost 25 years after Seuss died in 1991, you'll be able to find What Pet Should I Get? on bookstore shelves starting July 28.

After Seuss died, his widow, Audrey Geisel, and an assistant cleaned out his old office. Most of the valuable illustrations and early drafts were donated to the University of California, San Diego; but some loose pages and project folders ended up in a box that went unnoticed for many years. In 2013, Audrey finally decided to sort through the contents of that box and get the last of Seuss' original works appraised. It was then that she found What Pet Should I Get? and two other unpublished stories.

To turn the file labeled "The Pet Shop" into the first 21st century addition to the Seussian catalog, the family called up his former editor at Random House, Cathy Goldsmith—"our lasting link to Dr. Seuss," as Susan Brandt, president of licensing and marketing for Dr. Seuss Enterprises, described her. Goldsmith was nervous to impose her vision on this unfinished work, but she relied on her years of experience with Seuss—which included hand-coloring for him under his direction at the end of his life—to try and posthumously interpret his wishes. She carefully selected which hand-scrawled edits he might have implemented, creating storyboards on the wall just as the late author had, and studied the colors of other similar-era Seuss books for the illustrations, ultimately hand-coloring four or five different versions before selecting the final shades.

The finished product tells the tale of two siblings who Seuss fans might recognize. The narrator and his sister, Kay, are the same kids who appear in One Fish Two Fish, which came out in 1960. The increasingly imaginative characters and boisterous rhymes are classic Seuss. But the story is not quite as fantastical or freewheeling as One Fish Two Fish. The brother and sister arrive at the pet store determined to pick a pet but find their growing list of (occasionally fictional) options overwhelming. The perfectly proportioned moral being that one should learn to make up one's mind lest one risk, "If we do not choose, / we will end up with NONE."

In the Sunday Book Review in The New York Times, Maria Russo posits that this slight concession to convention is what caused Seuss to set What Pet Should I Get? aside. Audrey has said that she suspects her late husband simply forgot about that project as his fame and laundry list of story ideas grew. But Russo speculates that the decision to pass over What Pet Should I Get? was more intentional, suggesting that:

He looked over the book, and he talked it over with [his first wife] Helen; he thought about how much fun he had had with all its crazy creatures, and he started playing around with another book that would let the sister and brother off the hook—let them forget about their pressing pet store errand and instead hang out all day long in the commerce-free, parent-free world of “One Fish.”

With Theodor Geisel gone we can never really know why he made the choices he did regarding this or any other story. But for fans of the author, What Pet Should I Get? will offer a chance to revisit the rollicking world of Seuss.

15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

[h/t Newsweek]


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