ave you ever reread a supposed classic only to discover that it was, at its core, pure populist crap? I have. And recently.
When the idea came to me that it might be interesting to review treasured tomes in a modern context, I doubted my own objectivity and asked a young friend to choose the first subject.
He chose, and I suffered. I don't think I got eight-hundred words into the thing before I'd had enough.
Let's talk about obvious. Let's talk about redundant. Let's talk about simplistic. Let's talk about one of the most overrated novels to ever exploit a simple Freudian metaphor, set it in an overdone context, and drive it into the ground.
Let's talk about Green Eggs and Ham. The first question one asks oneself upon falling into this infinite pit is, "Who is Sam?" But this is no deep question akin to "Who is John Galt?" No, this is a grand misfiring, a literary macguffin which leads nowhere. The character of Sam introduces himself with a self-reflective pronouncement, and then reverses it, as if striving to form a palindrome but unable or unwilling to suffer sticking to the strict definition of the term.
Things do not much improve from there. In the mode of such works as Rebecca, Fight Club, and Go Dog Go, the reader is never given the name of the tale's other main character, a grumpy, frumpy, befurred biped with the hat Abraham Lincoln would have worn had he been formed from raw bread dough. This man, whom I shall refer to as Ubiquitous for want of a better name, is a stubborn fool whose doggishly weird looks seem intended only to distract the reader from his penchant for repeating himself. Though he does undergo a sea change (after, in one of the books many acts of overt symbolism, being literally dunked in the sea), it comes too late to be in a league with The Scarlet Letter and is too easily predicted to make us forget The Maltese Falcon. Since I have already pushed the limits of avoiding the subject, let us move on to GE&H''s plot.
In a nutshell, the book is about sex. Sam and Ubiquitous ride a speeding train through a tunnel. Sex. The climax of this ride is a brief fling into the air followed by a great splash. Sex. "Would you, could you, in the dark?" Sex. "Could you, would you, with a goat?" Sex.
Ubiquitous is a grown man and Sam is, obviously, a little boy. Neither of them wears a stitch of clothing below the forehead. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to call the literary branch of child protective services.
And it gets worse. Look at the titlenamed culinary offering: a pair of eggs straddling a joint of meat. My God, how much more blatant can you get. Sam often holds the plate on an extendable arm, and at one point he stands thrusting it into a box. I thought I was going to be sick. That there is a fork stuck into the meat for the duration of the tale speaks more of the author's opinions than it does puncture the metaphor.
Ubiquitous, disgusted when presented with the symbolic phallus, resists it with increasing fervor until, at the story's denouement, he finally tastes the forbidden dish and discovers he likes it. This is more than a simple extension of a folksy Life cereal commercial, this is The Crying Game all over again.
Even if you deny (or enjoy) the obvious sexual message, even if you argue that the book is just some simple rebellion against current drug laws with its "how do you know you don't like it if you haven't even tried it" attitude, it's still an underwritten, over-illustrated, piece of tripe by a man who calls himself a doctor but can't even draw an anatomically correct dog-man. My recommendation? If you want something deep, reread Ulysses. If you just want something lengthy, there's Atlas Shrugged. But if you want something that feels like it was written for five-year-olds and is too insubstantial to even be a decent doorstop, then Green Eggs and Ham is for you. Avoid it at all costs.