27 November 2011

Norton Juster and the Story Girl

There was once a boy named Milo who didn't know what to do with himself—not just sometimes, but always.
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.
"It seems to me that almost everything is a waste of time," he remarked one day as he walked dejectedly home from school. "I can't see the point in learning to solve useless problems, or subtracting turnips from turnips, or knowing where Ethiopia is or how to spell February." And, since no one bothered to explain otherwise, he regarded the process of seeking knowledge as the greatest waste of time of all. 
As he and his unhappy thoughts hurried along (for while he was never anxious to be where he was going, he liked to get there as quickly as possible) it seemed a great wonder that the world, which was so large, could sometimes feel so small and empty.
The Phantom Tollbooth, pg. 911

I started rereading The Phantom Tollbooth on my way to meet up with Danielle last night, feeling a lot like Milo. Just eleven pages later when he reaches the Doldrums, I realized I'd been there recently, too. And while Tock logically explains, "since you got here [the Doldrums] by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking," the Doldrums aren't quite my problem. It's that the world, which is so large, is feeling so small and empty. And I do not have a purple tollbooth to drive through, or a watchdog to guide me.

This morning produced no mysterious package in my room, no Humbug, no Spelling s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g Bee. But I did my habitual blog reading after church, and today the Story Girl had her own version of a tollbooth in the form of a book. As Milo's tollbooth takes him to Dictionopolis, this seems appropriate to me.

The Story Girl said that from Advent until Easter she will be reading Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmadge. It's a book I've started many times, but never read all the way through. As she says, it's a lot to take in, but I loved the idea of reading just a little bit each day for the next four (or so) months. Good Christmas preparation, good New Year preparation, good Easter preparation. Good reading habit to form. Good way to fill the world.

So even though it was not meant as an invitation, I'm joining her. Would you like to come along?

Thank you, Lorren. And happy 50th anniversary to Norton. The Lands Beyond are still magic.


  1. It makes me so happy that you are joining me. :) I think I have been in "the Doldrums" too and just reading a few pages for the last few days has helped me feel a lot closer to Christ.

    I have never read the Phantom Tollbooth. I need to!

  2. Hey, count me in but give me a few days to run down the Jesus the Christ book. I've never even heard of it before.

    I am currently reading the Phantom Tollbooth, too. And I can say that I can totally relate to being in the doldrums, too. Your post here really got me thinking about thinking!

    Thanks for this excellent invitation. I'm in.

    Anne Bennett

  3. Firstly, I love The Phantom Tollbooth. And second, I've been to the Doldrums before. I've felt that emptiness, and I hope you start feeling better.

    I love the idea of reading Jesus, the Christ. I think I'll join you next year, because here's the thing: I've committed to read the Old Testament by June, and it's quite a hefty endeavor.

    Also, I am so excited to see you soon. Like, really.

  4. I meant secondly, obviously. I can't let such unparallelism go unaddressed.

  5. Um...gulp! The cost is a bit high for the book and I'm not LDS. It sounds like a great book though, so I guess I'm out but I think I will try to read something similar to match my faith. Thanks for the invitation, though.

    Anne Bennett