Norton Juster
Guy Lochhead, 26/11/11
American architect and author of children’s books. His books often explore how we learn and use language. His literature is almost a side-project to his main interest in architecture, and they display that in the way he creates worlds and sometimes in even more overt references to architectural theory, like the cities of Illusion and Reality in his most famous book, The Phantom Tollbooth. The Phantom Tollbooth was written in 1961. It follows a boy called Milo and his adventures through literal representations of English idioms. He followed this book two years later with ‘The Dot And The Line’, this time exploring “lower mathematics” in a romance where women are dots and men are lines. It was turned into an Oscar-winning animation. He has continued to publish sporadically, children’s books and a couple of non-fiction historical pieces on the lives of rural women. Juster’s early books took the playful, wide-eyed wonder of the culture of the ’60s and rid it of its drugs and sex to create amazing narratives with a convincing child’s outlook (except in ‘Stark Naked’, where all that drugs and sex stuff comes a bit to the fore, but not in a particularly awful way). The Phantom Tollbooth and The Dot And The Line are stone-cold classics. They have been praised enough already by pretty much everyone who’s ever read them, so I won’t bother going into specifics here. Of course, both will be included. I’ll look at including the film of The Dot and The Line in another post. Juster seems like a really sound person, and interviews with him are pretty inspirational. He answers all his fan mail. He still thinks of his writing as a project besides his main passion, architecture, and I think the brilliance of the man can be summed up by the motto of the architectural firm he co-founded, “Live inspired, do good, create beauty”. If you haven’t read The Phantom Tollbooth, PLEASE READ IT.

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