If you don’t have enough existential angst in your life — and if you’re operating on the theory that there’s no such thing as too much Kafka (see our post from earlier today) — then check out this radio play called Samsa & Seuss, which aired originally on the CBC show Wiretap before appearing on This American Life. The piece is based on an epistolary short story by the late, great David Rakoff and is performed by Rakoff along with Jonathan Goldstein.
The story begins with a desperate Gregor Samsa reaching out to Dr. Seuss looking for some way to cure him of his malady — i.e. being a bug. Seuss’s reply is written entirely in verse — “Rest assured, I’ll endeavor to glean and deduce. You’ll be better than ever or my name isn’t Seuss” – which confuses Samsa to no end. At one point, Samsa asks, “Is metrical rhyme an American mode of correspondence?”
Yet what could be a one-joke novelty grows surprisingly poignant in Rakoff’s deft hands. When it becomes clear that the doctor’s eccentric health regime – “magnolia custard and rosehip soufflé and some dew drops with mustard” – has failed to fix the ailment of the increasingly depressed Samsa, Seuss’s cheery can-do attitude turns reflective:
I’m astonished at times when I think of the past, of my thousands of rhymes, of how life is so vast. I’m left, then, to wonder how anyone gleans a purpose or sense of what anything means. It’s not ours for the knowing. It’s meaning abstruse. We both best be going. Your loving friend, Seuss.
And you thought The Lorax felt a little bleak.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.