• R.I.P. Norton Juster, 91 (The Phantom Tollbooth, 1961)

    From Lenona@21:1/5 to All on Wed Mar 10 19:41:20 2021

    Last two paragraphs:

    Author and children’s literature historian Leonard S. Marcus worked on an annotated edition of Juster’s most popular book. He offered these words as tribute: “When asked what inspired him to write The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton liked to say that he
    wrote it to avoid having to think about another book for which the Ford Foundation had awarded him a grant. As 1950s Americans flocked to the suburbs in droves, it was to be an essay for teens on the rewards of urban living. The Foundation’s money had
    allowed him to quit his day job as an architect. But the research required for the project soon overwhelmed him—in much the same way that Milo feels overwhelmed by his schoolwork and the world of facts. Norton, too, needed to escape to the Lands Beyond!
    He never got around to writing the Ford book, and as a result he lived in dread for years afterward—or so he said—that the Foundation would come after him. While researching The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, I stopped by the Foundation’s library
    one day and was able to track down Norton’s grant proposal on microfilm. When our APT was published, I dropped off a copy for the library’s collection. Norton laughed and said, ‘Maybe now I’m finally off the hook!’”

    Author Suzanne Collins, a true Tollbooth devotee, who contributed a celebratory essay for a 50th-anniversary edition of the book, remembered her friend Juster this way: “I first met Norton during elementary school in the brilliant pages of The Phantom
    Tollbooth,” she recalled. “Our assignment was to write a new chapter for Milo and Tock, which turned out to be my first and only piece of fan fiction. Thirty-five years later, as we became friends, I realized where all the humor, kindness, sharp
    commentary, and joyousness in the book came from—straight from his heart. Mine’s breaking now, but it’s a comfort to know I will always be able to find the Whether Man on page 18. And that he will be there for generations to come.”

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  • From Lenona@21:1/5 to All on Wed Mar 10 19:19:18 2021


    ...Maurice Sendak, whose famed children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” came out two years after “The Phantom Tollbooth,” remembered that period fondly as a time when children’s authors were pushing beyond the blandness of an earlier era
    a time, he wrote in an introductory essay in a 1996 edition of “Tollbooth,” when “it was easy to stay clean and fresh, and wildly ourselves.”

    But, Mr. Sendak lamented, time had shown that Mr. Juster’s conjuring of the various allegorical monsters that Milo encountered proved to be all too spot on.

    “The Demons of Ignorance, the Gross Exaggeration (whose wicked teeth were made ‘only to mangle the truth’), and the shabby Threadbare Excuse are inside the walls of the Kingdom of Wisdom,” Mr. Sendak wrote, “while the Gorgons of Hate and Malice,
    the Overbearing Know-it-all, and most especially the Triple Demons of Compromise, are already established in high office all over the world.”

    An architect, he lived in Northampton, Masschusetts.

    I could have sworn he lived in Amherst...

    At any rate, I got to meet him a few years ago, at a lecture/book signing event.

    Excerpts from the birthday tribute I posted in 2019 (the post includes Kirkus reviews, reader reviews, multiple interviews, and videos)


    He called the movie of The Phantom Tollbooth "drivel." I don't blame him.

    (long, fascinating interview from 2001)

    From another 2001 interview, in Salon:

    Q: One of the things that seems to really strike a chord with people
    in "The Phantom Tollbooth" is Milo's state of mind at the book's
    beginning: "When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was
    out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and
    coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he'd bothered.
    Nothing really interested him -- least of all the things that should
    have." I suspect that the first thing people today would say about
    Milo is that he's depressed.

    A: That was a problem I had back then, too. Milo's not a dysfunctional
    kid. He's very typical. I kept having to rewrite those sections
    because I didn't want him to come across as someone who had these deep psychological problems. He just couldn't figure out why he was being
    oppressed by all these things. When you think about it, kids get an extraordinary number of facts thrown at them, and nothing connects
    with anything else. As you get older, all these threads begin to
    appear, and you realize that almost everything you come across
    connects to six other things that you know about.

    Kids don't know this. You give them a date, or a historical figure, or
    some fact in math or science and that's it. They're just disembodied
    things that don't mean anything. Milo doesn't know where he fits in
    any of this and why he has to learn all of it.


    What's interesting about that exchange is that while most American
    reviewers simply wrote that Milo was "bored," at least one British
    critic, instead, called him "spoiled."


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