Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Broken Kingdom - Fifty years of “The Phantom Tollbooth.”
Norton Juster (right) wrote the book. His neighbor Jules Feiffer did the illustrations.
Our cult of decade anniversaries—the tenth of 9/11, the twentieth of “Nevermind”—are for the most part mere accidents of our fingers: because we’ve got five on each hand, we count things out in tens and hundreds. And yet the fifty-year birthday of a good children’s book marks a real passage, since it means that the book hasn’t been passed just from parent to child but from parent to child and on to child again. A book that has crossed that three-generation barrier has a good chance at permanence. So to note the fiftieth birthday of the closest thing that American literature has to an “Alice in Wonderland” of its own, Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth”—with illustrations, by Jules Feiffer, that are as perfectly matched to Juster’s text as Tenniel’s were to Carroll’s—is to mark an anniversary that matters. (And there are two new books for the occasion, both coming out this month from Knopf: “The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth,” with notes by Leonard Marcus; and a fiftieth-anniversary edition, with a series of short essays by notable readers about the effect the book has had on their lives.)