The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster; Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling.

The Phantom Tollbooth.

I was first introduced to Norton Juster by my younger brother, Andy, who, when faced with the task of finding me a birthday present a couple of years ago, wandered aimlessly through the aisles of a bookstore until he found this. I recommend it for people who like, uh, bad puns. The Dot and the Line struck me as just exactly the kind of book that Mike Callahan would like. Perfect for me, anyway.

So I found out what else this guy has written. Hm. The Phantom Tollbooth. I’ve heard of that before…never read it…

(Love the Internet. Looked up the book, two minutes later had a transfer placed at the library so they’d move it to the branch six blocks away from my house.)

Well, I’ve read it now.

What’s the word I’m looking for here? Pedantic? Didactic? Preachy? I can’t recommend this book. There are other people out there who could, but I’m not one of them. I owe my loyalty to Lewis Carroll, the great genius of shooting down overly-instructive children’s book, the worker of wonders for the sheer sake of wonders being worked. This is a book that instructs the young not to waste time, to slack off, to allow themselves to be misled by ignorance, to jump to conclusions, to…need I go on? Learning is good, wisdom is better. That’s the message of this book. The time may come when I have to eat my words and say, “Without this book, Ray may have grown up to be a slattern and a sad case of wasted talent”; however, I’m not reading this book for her sake. And maybe this book comes as a giant flash of insight for some people. “Learning…good? Ignorance…bad?” I have to admit there are people that I’d like to bludgeon with this book.

But I was disappointed.


This book should be subtitled, “So You’ve Read ‘The Man Who Was Thursday,’ And Now You Want to Know What That Was All About.” The Man Who Was Thursday and Orthodoxy were written about the same time, both in 1908. G.K. Chesterton wasn’t accepted into the Roman Catholic Church until 1922 (just in case you were wondering). But I’m supposed to be reviewing a book, not…heck. I’m supposed to be doing whatever I want to. This is my blog, after all.

Anyway, I liked the book although I didn’t find any of the arguements convincing enough to make me want to become a born-again Catholic. What I enjoyed was the enormous sense of joy that Chesterton seemed to have about life, and about religion. I can’t say I agree with his arguements (outline what it is that belief is supposed to do, then knock off all other systems of belief for not fulfilling the definitions, leaving only an undefined Christianity behind), but I loved the additude. I think it’d be fun to have a college course combining Nietsche and Chesterton, but of course you’d have to have security guards at the door, lest the combatan–students kill each other over it.

Comments on the fourth Harry Potter….

I know, it’s been out. I’ve read it already. But it just came out in paperback, see?

And it hit me: Ms. Rowling has to reinvent her style with every book in this frikkin’ series for a different age level while still keeping things mostly readable for her youngest readers. Most JV fiction writers stick with one age.

The mind of an eleven-year-old isn’t the same thing as the mind of a seventeen-year-old, you know. And that’s her audience for the last HP book.

What a cool lady.