Someone should make a game about: The Phantom Tollbooth

July 1, 2020
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Who doesn’t love a book with a map in the front of it? And here’s one of the best. Look at that landscape – The Kingdom of Wisdom! Check it out, the Foothills of Confusion rising from the Sea of Knowledge. The Forest of Sight, the Mountains of Ignorance, and in the distance the Castle in the Air.

This is The Phantom Tollbooth, a book that I suspect will always feel like a bit of a secret, even though it’s been made into films and TV shows and has sold over three million copies. It’s a children’s adventure, written by Norton Juster, who was an academic and an architect and was meant to be writing something else at the time. It was published in 1962 with wonderfully energetic sketches by Jules Feiffer, who was Juster’s friend and – do I remember this correctly? – perhaps room-mate.

The Phantom Tollbooth tells the story of Milo, a young boy who, now I’m re-reading as an adult, is clearly suffering from ennui. Everything is boring and disappointing. He comes home one day to find a gift in his room – a tollbooth that he sets up and drives through in his little toy car.

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