My brother's little daughter is almost two years old, and of course impossibly adorable. I babysat her not too long ago. Her favorite tape (she's still analog) is a recording of "The Cat in the Hat," by Dr. Suess, of course, read by David Hyde Pierce. I was only with her for 36 hours but I heard it at least 9 or 10 times. Easy.
On the way to the train station, at the end of my stay, the tape was on in the car. My brother (David) and I got to talking about how very subversive the whole poem is. Suppression of ego in favor of id. Sexual desire as personified by the Cat. Abandonment issues. Confessional narratives. Goldfish as Chorus. Et al.
Which led us to ask each other (as the adorable niece dozed in the car seat): What is the BEST line in that book? What's the single most daring idea, most challenging to the status quo?
I don't remember what David said, but for me it has got to be this one:
You sank our toy boat,
Sank it deep in the cake,
"Sank it deep in the cake"!!! That is just THE most anarchic line a writer could write. The pathos of "You sank our toy boat." (The poignancy of "toy boat.") The sadness of the realization that a toy boat can be sunk! AND AS IF THAT IS NOT ENOUGH -- where did the Cat sink it? DEEP IN THE CAKE! The madness that suggests! How can a cake and a toy boat even be in the same place? And if it's deep in the cake, then the cake must be a layer cake. The effort it takes to make one of those (and in 1957, yet -- no mixes). And to frost it. All ruined in a moment. In two lines of handsome dactyls, we understand the enormity of the havoc the Cat has wreaked. Toy: demystified; boat: sunk; cake: ruined; home: violable; thin membrane that holds society together: DESTROYED.
And the niecelet: she may be only two, but as you can see, she was not missing a thing.
If there's another candidate for best Dr. Seuss line, bring it on.