O-NEB 5: The Phantom Tollbooth
I don’t read books very often. But when I do, I usually can’t put the book down, whether it’s good or bad.
So, simply because I read through Norton Juster’s the Phantom Tollbooth in one sitting isn’t a good argument for it being a great book.
Thus, this post will give
good arguments to convince you that it is, indeed, a great book.
Here, I have created a picture to prove it so, because a picture is worth a thousand words:
The Phantom Tollbooth is about a little boy, Milo. He’s just like Shu in that his personality is of a shoe, but you don’t care, because the Phantom Tollbooth is a children’s novel. Yes, it’s a children’s novel, but it’s the ideal children’s novel, because not only will children laugh at Milo’s stupid adventures, adults will laugh at the stupid puns the book makes that the children don’t understand. The entire book is a stupid pun. However, unlike stupid puns in my blog, the book doesn’t emphasize that they’re puns, spending hours and pages and hundreds of words shouting to the reader: “THIS IS A PUN!! GET IT?!” No, it’s like the book doesn’t even care about the puns, throwing them out randomly without any reactions from Milo.
Which makes sense, because children don’t understand the puns, usually created by taking common English idioms literally. But still, it’s like somebody decided to compile a collection of stupid puns, and then decided to create a story around it, cause, why not? Sort of like Guilty Crown in that respect, not that I give Guilty Crown any respect. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA-yeah the puns in the book aren’t much stupider than that
It does feel a lot like the Wizard of Oz, or Alice in Wonderland, or maybe the Chronicles of Narnia, though I’ve not read the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, nor the Chronicles of Narnia and can’t actually compare the four, so I’ll just say it feels a lot like the Wizard of Oz, or Alice in Wonderland, or the Chronicles of Narnia because that’s what everybody else says. Milo, the main character, meets various weird characters, talking animals, and EVIL DEMONS on his adventure in the land of Wisdom. Many of those characters highlight moral lessons Milo can learn from – including that it’s bad to not think, that killing time may actually, uh, kill time, and that you should always be able to stop and smell the flowers, before the flowers disappear. Because that’s what happens to one city. It disappears. Yeah. But don’t let that stop you from reading, because some of us need to learn these didactic (see, I even learned a new word from this book!) lessons ourselves!
I’m out of things to say now, so, I decided to search on SparkNotes to see what they had on the Phantom Tollbooth and HOLEY DONUT WHAT THE WELL! The first two chapters of the Phantom Tollbooth are like, what, 500 words long, and SparkNotes’ SUMMARY is even longer!
The Phantom Tollbooth is a fun book. It’s funner than any other book I’ve read, namely because I don’t often read books and when I do, they’re not very fun.
So how does SparkNotes make it seem so boring?!
Y’know what, SparkNotes is stupid. When you summarize a book, you don’t make it less interesting! And to any teacher that dares assign this book as homework for analysis… go throw yourself off a well off the coast of Finland, because this book is not to be studied! It’d be like, I don’t know, analysing Ben-To for its ironic treatment of jobless citizens, or dissecting Guilty Crown to understand what personality is all about. AND THAT’S FUCKING STUPID, AND EVERYBODY WHO DOES THAT DESERVES TO DIE!
[GODHIJACK: Because Mushyrulez has died, the rest of this post shall consist of excerpts from the Phantom Tollbooth.]
“We have a very busy schedule. As you can see, that leaves almost no time for brooding, lagging, plodding, or procrastinating, and if we stopped to think or laugh, we’d never get nothing done.”
“You mean you’d never get anything done,” corrected Milo.
“We don’t want to get anything done,” snapped another angrily; “we want to get nothing done, and we can do that without your help.”
“You see,” continued another in a more conciliatory tone, “it’s really quite strenuous doing nothing all day, so once a week we take a holiday and go nowhere, which was just where we were going when you came along.”
“It’s against the law to bark without using the barking meter. Are you ready to be sentenced?”
“Only a judge can sentence you,” said Milo, who remembered reading that in one of his schoolbooks.
“Good point,” replied the policeman, taking off his cap and putting on a long black robe. “I am also the judge. Now would you like a long or short sentence?”
“A short one, if you please,” said Milo.
“Good,” said the judge, rapping his gavel three times. “I always have trouble remembering the long ones. How about ‘I am’? That’s the shortest sentence I know.”
Everybody agreed that it was a very fair sentence, and the judge continued: “There will also be a small additional penalty of six million years in prison. Case closed.”
“By royal command the pastry chefs have worked all night in the half bakery to make sure that -”
“The half bakery?” questioned Milo.
“Of course, the half bakery,” snapped the king. “Where do you think half-baked ideas come from?”
“Come now, if you don’t have a reason, you must at least have an explanation or certainly an excuse,” interrupted the gateman.
Milo shook his head.
“Very serious, very serious,” the gateman said, shaking his head also. “You can’t get in without a reason.” He thought for a moment and then continued. “Wait a minute; maybe I have an old one you can use.”
He took a battered suitcase from the gatehouse and began to rummage busily through it, mumbling to himself, “No . . . no . . . no . . . this won’t do . . . no . . . h-m-m-m . . . ah, this is fine,” he cried triumphantly, holding up a small medallion on a chain. He dusted it off, and engraved on one side were the words “WHY NOT?”
“That’s a good reason for almost anything – a bit used perhaps, but still quite serviceable.”
“Now will you tell me where we are?” asked Tock as he looked around the desolate island.
“To be sure,” said Canby; “you’re on the Island of Conclusions. Make yourself at home. You’re apt to be here for some time.”
“But how did we get here?” asked Milo, who was still a bit puzzled by being there at all.
“You jumped, of course,” explained Canby. “That’s the way most everyone gets here. It’s really quite simple: every time you decide something without having a good reason, you jump to Conclusions whether you like it or not.”
“I don’t think you understand,” said Milo timidly as the watchdog growled a warning. “We’re looking for a place to spend the night.”
“It’s not yours to spend,” the bird shrieked again, and followed it with the same horrible laugh.
“That doesn’t make any sense, you see – ” he started to explain.
“Dollars or cents, it’s still not yours to spend,” the bird replied haughtily.
“But I didn’t mean – ” insisted Milo.
“Of course you’re mean,” interrupted the bird, closing the eye that had been open and opening the one that had been closed. “Anyone who’d spend a night that doesn’t belong to him is very mean.”
“Well, I thought that by – ” he tried again desperately.
“That’s a different story,” interjected the bird a bit more amiably. “If you want to buy, I’m sure I can arrange to sell, but with what you’re doing you’ll probably end up in a cell anyway.”
“That doesn’t seem right,’ said Milo helplessly, for, with the bird taking everything the wrong way, he hardly knew what he was saying.
“Agreed,” said the bird, with a sharp click of his beak, “but neither is it left, although if I were you I would have left a long time ago.”
“Oh no,” replied Canby, shaking his head. “The only way back from Conclusions is to swim, and that’s a very long and a very hard way.”
They swam and swam and swam for what seemed like hours, and only Tock’s firm encouragement kept Milo struggling through the icy water. At last they reached the shore, thoroughly exhausted and, except for the bug, completely soaked.
“That wasn’t bad at all,” the Humbug said, straightening his tie and brushing himself off. “I must visit there again.”
“I’m sure you will,” gasped Milo. “But from now on I’m going to have a very good reason before I make up my mind about anything. You can lose too much time jumping to Conclusions.”
tl;dr: in which I rephrase my previous O-NEB in different terms
P.S. Read the book, seriously. Though I think I’ve spoiled most of the stupider puns already. I’d like to see a translator try to translate this into any other language…
“Wait!” shouted Milo, who’d thought of many more questions he wanted to ask.
“Thirty-four pounds,” shrieked the bird as he disappeared into the fog.