If you're one of the many people who grew up taking the unforgettable journey to another world in Norman Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, then Michael Chabon's essay on the book will remind you of why you loved it.
And if you haven't read the book yet, then Chabon's essay (which is adapted from his intro to a 50th anniversary edition of the novel) may convince you to pick it up at last. Chabon talks about how he read Tollbooth as a kid, and its pun-filled, fanciful narrative helped him fall in love with language:
Milo's journey into the Lands Beyond (beyond the flyleaf, that is, with its spectacular Jules Feiffer map), was mine as a reader, and my journey was his, and ours was the journey of all readers venturing into wonderful books, into a world made entirely, like Juster's, of language, by language, about language. While you were there, everything seemed fraught and new and notable, and when you returned, even if you didn't suffer from Milovian ennui, the "real world" seemed deeper, richer, at once explained and, paradoxically, more mysterious than ever.
The whole thing, over at the New York Review of Books, is worth checking out. Also new at the NYR site: a classics professor explains why it was such a bad idea for Julie Taymor to try and blend Greek mythology with our modern mythos, superheroes, in Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. [New York Review of Books]