Friday, August 27th, 2010

'The Phantom Tollbooth,' or, The Democratizing Principle of Literature

"I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal-as we are!" -Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Some years back, my daughter wanted to attend a mommy-and-me girls' reading group with her best friend, and I said okay, fine. It emerged that this was a "women of color" mommy-and-me girls' reading group. I'm kind of honorary "of color," because I am Cuban, though loads of my milk-white relations were born in Spain. I've often thought how bizarre the whole Hispanic thing is, because if you want a white European oppressor and/or pack of genocidal thugs who went around wreaking havoc on indigenous populations, well, Spain will give anybody a run for his money there, and yet we use "Hispanic" as a blanket term for the multi-colored descendants of both oppressors and oppressed. In any case, I rarely hesitate to lay claim to whatever demographic option will create the least fuss, because the whole thing seems so arbitrary anyway, and what I really wish is that everyone was treated fairly and there were no boxes left to tick.

This best friend's mama had been a great mate of mine since way back in our Lamaze days. Diana is a terrific force of nature, a lawyer of great toughness and moral fiber, or really more like, moral rebar; part African-American, part Native American and part Klingon, we used to say. The two of us had been Lamaze renegades who'd had no truck with the whole la-la-la-the-life-within-me thing of "expecting" (ridiculous word). We laughed openly at the hard-sell tactics used to promote this idea that we must endure an "unmedicated" childbirth and must never ever listen to any doctors or we'd be betraying our Babies, our Nation and Women. We spent half the class joking about how soon we could demand oodles of morphine when The Time Came, etc.

"Hey, I am just trying to avoid a natural death experience, ha ha!" we'd say. "Wake me when the hairdresser arrives!"

Anyway, my daughter and I went along to the mommy-and-me women-of-color book group. It was fun, these lovely women and their daughters, this beautiful house. We all gabbed and had snacks for a while. Later on, I was asked to recommend a book for the girls to read, for next time, and I instantly suggested The Phantom Tollbooth.

THEM (uncomfortable)
"Uh, is that written by a woman of color?"

ME (oblivious)
"Oh God, no."

"Is the hero a minority?"

ME (a light dawns)
"No, no, oh no. Um. A boy, Milo, and a talking dog."
(while wildly thinking how talking dogs constitute very small underclass)

"Is the writer a minority?"

"No, no! A white guy! This total white guy. I think from New York, or something?"

THEM (patronizing as hell)
"Well, we want the girls to be able to identify with the characters…"

ME (bristling)
"Listen, I have been identifying with Milo since I was eight years old myself. Are you trying to teach these girls that they can't identify with Milo?"

Of all the dumb things to get into a tussle about. But I found I couldn't quite wriggle out of it, because it really did drive me wild that these girls weren't going to be encouraged to read The Phantom Tollbooth. My daughter was embarrassed to see me getting into an actual disagreement with these nice Moms. It might have gotten really awkward but for Diana, who managed with her usual raised eyebrow or two to smooth everything out.

Even so, we never went back, and I often recall the frustration I felt that afternoon.

I cannot help but think that it is flat wrong to teach anyone that he or she should not read, or love, or identify with, any book he or she pleases. Indeed, to my own way of thinking, that's the whole point of literature. David Foster Wallace had a lovely thing to say in this regard, about Cynthia Ozick.

Here's what's cool is that this is this hyper-educated, very seriously Jewish person writing about a culture and ethnicity that I know very slightly, and mostly only from books, and whom I-number one, the prose is just completely luminous, but number two, I find myself feeling stuff for these folks that I sure don't feel for most of the people who look just like me in regular life.

Literature's a democratizing force. Its power makes so much of the world accessible to anyone who can read, equally, without regard to anything about "who we are" or where we came from or any of that. If you want to participate in the world of letters, all that matters is your ability to make yourself intelligible, when you write, and to apprehend what is being said, when you read.

It doesn't matter whether an author is a Great White Author, or a minority author, or anything like that. As a reader, I don't care if you are a woman of color, a white man or a Lhasa Apso. I only care whether or not your book is any good.

Maria Bustillos is the author of Dorkismo: The Macho of the Dork and Act Like a Gentleman, Think Like a Woman.

82 Comments / Post A Comment

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

> any good

And so we come to the close of another week. This weekend, don't forget to raise a glass of Absolut in honor of all the dead soldiers of the Culture Wars and the Canon Wars who made the Restoration of Universal Taste possible.

Hell, it's five already. Do it now. I sure am.

roboloki (#1,724)

i thought today was "national ditch work for drinks day". i've been drunk since eleven.

TH42 (#1,939)

I'm at an age where nearly all of my friends have children who are 2 or 1 or in the womb. I can't say how many times I've found myself aimlessly wandering the aisles of Toys R Us, walking out with a coloring book or a fire truck, and feeling very impatient for the day that I can just finally buy the kid "The Phantom Toolbooth."

HiredGoons (#603)

I got my nephew The Giving Tree before he was even born.

He'll grow into it.

mrschem (#1,757)

absolutely. someone very special gave that book to me when I was 17! It may have changed the course of my life.

atipofthehat (#797)

I will remain silent on this one, for it goes without saying.

C_Webb (#855)

Tock was a Lhasa Apso?

Seriously, that use of "identify" smacks of a word I take away from my students on Day One (if it's even a word): "relatable." While I completely understand the desire to empower young women, if we only read things we can "relate" to, we're not going to learn to relate to anybody who isn't just like us. And no matter who "we" are … that's a problem.

MichelleDean (#7,041)

You're right, of course, not least because the argument should never be that one can't identify with experiences that aren't one's own. Clearly that isn't the case. That said if the world is structured in such a way that the stories we read to children particularly are all about Milos, or white children more generally… Well, it seems to me like that should matter a little. Not to the point of omitting the Phantom Tollbooth from you list! But it does matter.

Moff (#28)

Yes, and one can see the point of a mommy-and-me group that specifically promotes reading stories that are specifically not about Milos. Even if one can't countenance the mommies' reaction to the thought of reading about Milo. And even if one thinks they probably ought to throw the occasional Milo in there for good measure.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Moff strongly agreed on all points. Another thing that Wallace used to say now and again: "there's babies in that bathwater."

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

Completely agree with the point, but I still tend to think that many many many good books have been ignored (and probably not even published) because they were written by a ___ or a ___ or even a ___, which isn't to say that we shouldn't be reading awesome work by straight white guys, but that we should be leery of proclaiming our satisfaction with the status quo, even when those who proclaim dissatisfaction with the status quo do it stupidly or for transparently self-serving reasons.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

This is true! "I want to read something by a ___" is pretty much guaranteed to be a laudable goal. It's when this inverts to the "I prefer not to read the work of ___s" construction that it gets weird.

mrschem (#1,757)

I saw this exact comment – in my mind – yesterday. Thanks Mr G.

laurel (#4,035)

Willful ignorance of the under-read and outright rejection of mainstream works are equally daft and a disservice to young readers. The argument here is undermined for me by the poster's behavior. Isn't it a little disingenuous to show up for the first time at a multi-culti reading group, offer up a straight-white-male author/protagonist as your only suggestion and then take issue when the group politely if clenchedly questions you about the characteristics of your choice?

It's like going to a dinner party hosted by vegetarians and offering to bring bratwurst the next time you come over. It's just kind of rude and fight-picky.

barnhouse (#1,326)

(Maria here) well … of my cluelessness there can be no doubt. There was a whole series of misunderstandings, and that is just what I was getting at, is the thing.

I took issue with the idea of "correct" vehicles for "identification," and I hope and believe I didn't do that rudely or in a fight-picky way. I just really disagree so strongly about that. It's the only thing there was any open disagreement about, and it didn't last for more than a minute, with no tempers showing or anything like that. Maybe I should have assumed that because the members of the group were "of color" that the books selected were supposed to be "of color" in some way, as well … but I didn't. I just thought we were exposing these girls to good books together, and chose one of my own favorites without even thinking about it.

HiredGoons (#603)

my grandmother (who is the most 'understand the other' amazing woman) used to read childrens books about "minorities" to me as a kid and it really helped me be an inclusive son-of-a-bitch.

I mean, she was Jewish so it wasn't really a hard-sell.

mrschem (#1,757)

Could say the same of your comment.

barnhouse (#1,326)

This kind of scolding falls a little flat with me because I grew up speaking Spanish, first; the white-man thing was purely exotic to me (still is in a way, come to think of it.)

MadrasSoup (#167)

Well, I imagine that these little girls, if old enough to read, probably attend school. And at school, they're probably doing everything *but* reading literature with which they can directly identify, which I suspect is the reason the book club was created in the first place — to countervail against the culture that puts the pressure on them to expand their horizons while not asking the same of the dominant groups.

So, I take the spirit of your point, but I'd say it's misdirected; the kids whose parents could not imagine them reading Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry or whatever, they're the ones that need to heed your words.

mork (#5,177)

"Literature's a democratizing force. Its power makes so much of the world accessible to anyone who can read, equally, without regard to anything about "who we are" or where we came from or any of that. If you want to participate in the world of letters, all that matters is your ability to make yourself intelligible, when you write, and to apprehend what is being said, when you read."

How can you say that? The parameters of participating in the world of letters and being able to make oneself "intelligible" are already Western and patriarchal. All forms of cultural production and consumption – TV, the Internet, etc. – are informed by societal structures, including racism, sexism, etc. Why should literature be any different?

Also why is it that every time someone is stating a "colorblind" opinion it always has to end with a sentence like "I don't care if you're black, white, or [insert animal, object, alien, etc.]"?

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I'm sorry, but this is bonkers.

"Western"? This may shock you, but people in other parts of the world read and write, too. Historically, they write and read a lot more (and a lot more "intelligibly") than Europeans. English-language literature is Western, maybe, but that's because of the whole "England" thing.

"Patriarchal"? Much of the activity of oppressive ruling classes throughout history – male, white, rich, whatever – has been to deny the oppressed the advantages of literacy. Literacy gives you access to knowledge you wouldn't otherwise have, and a voice that can reach people who otherwise wouldn't hear. You don't burn books to keep warm.

"Informed by societal structures" OMG! Not societal structures! Those are the worst! Oh wait no that's a completely value-neutral term. One that includes things like "pacifism," "family," and "art." And if you don't think works of literacy that are informed by sexism and racism can be edifying, you're in for a really excellent surprise.

I guess what has flabbergasted me is that you seem to be arguing that literature is bad – that it is somehow an instrument of tyranny. I don't think for a second that you really believe that. Reading outside our cultural milieu is one of the most powerful tools of understanding we have.

C_Webb (#855)

English-language literature is Western, maybe, but that's because of the whole "England" thing.

(Utterly unthreatening) interweb crush commencing NOW. Cheers.

brent_cox (#40)

This may be a forest/trees problem.

Moff (#28)

Actually, letters — like, literally, the phonetic alphabet — are both a democratizing force and thoroughly Western.

And the fact that Western culture is, of course, patriarchal and racist does not alter the fact that it's historically demonstrated a great deal more progress in those areas than many of its counterparts. I mean, the fact that we're far from perfect doesn't make us bad, comparatively speaking.

Goodness, the mere fact that so many thoughtful Westerners today are convinced their culture is so grievously oppressive stands as evidence that it's not.

cherrispryte (#444)

@C_Webb: No fair I (non-threateningly) called dibs!

untitled HD (#4,555)

I will fight you for "dibbs"… How about a Duel tomorrow at noon ?
(I am a late sleeper)

(On the other hand, the Doctor would never put up with my nonsense..)

wait, are we objectifying an actual person here? because that would not be right! (gratifying, but not right!)

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@mork: I hate running into people like you at parties. Your arguments are boring and lame and you should lighten up.

Good night.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

It's OK, I am an internet person, not an actual one. Objectify away!

@Moff: You're right about our alphabet being Western, and I believe you about phonetic alphabets more broadly, but writing itself is much older. Hieroglyphics and Chinese characters are the first examples that come to mind.

Moff (#28)

@Doc: Of course. But the alphabet as a technology is markedly different in ways that are closely tied to the evolution of democracy and other Western ideals.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

I'm objectifying your avatar as I type… Mmm Hmmm

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

@petejayhawkasoid: You are the kind of person I avoid going to parties you are invited to, so don't feel so smug.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

I am distracted by your beauty, but I will try to explain it to you Doctor Disaster sexy mofo…

Where was the moveable type thing that made books possible developed?

Sure, they had the ability to write other places, but the wide dissemination of books was made possible and STILL is made widespread in the Western World.

I'll ignore how you let your political sensibilities interfere with actual history (mostly because that avatar turns me the fuck on) but millions of books are not being sold in developing areas (Mazlow's Hierarchy of need – one of which is to make out with you) if you just simply take a cold eye of history/reality.

Also, God I want to make out with you.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

@me In my defense I am watching my LEGAL copy of QAF UK edition Episode 101 at the moment.

ShanghaiLil (#260)

>sigh< Sounds like someone just finished college…

ShanghaiLil (#260)

I've been secretly objectifying the good Doctor for months now. And…it's just wrong, what I'm thinking!

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

THIS EXPLAINS SO MUCH (about the Civilization tech tree).

I certainly agree that inventions like the printing press and the alphabet helped democratize literature. I don't think that makes literature distinctly Western, though.

Moff (#28)

@Doc: The alphabet helped democratize countries! But you're right. Literature itself is certainly a worldwide thing.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Look, even your ears are sexy Doctor Disaster but let me try this a different way…

If a tree falls in the forest with no one around does it make a sound?

Let me do this from my many decades of unie experience as well: Most of African literature, for example, was passed down generations from spoken lore (kind of like the Western World did it – with fun music too) so the existence of a method to actual transcribe in a sort of semi-permanent format the literature cannot be underestimated.

The loss of the Library at Alexandria (did I get my history right?) is one of the greatest losses of history I wish I had been around to prevent.

Also, I really hope that avatar is you or I'm crushing on a faker.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Agreed on all points. The contributions of Western technology to widespread literacy have been huge. I still don't think that means literature is Western. It's like saying that because the internet developed in the States and pulp paper was invented in China, the shift from print to digital media is AMERICAN IMPERIALISM.

adminslave (#3,548)

About ten years ago my Dad attended a bereavement book club (our Mom had passed). They read extremely overly sentimental Oprah-approved nonsense about death. It seemed so silly and myopic to transcribe reading in that way. I told him to recommend "Being Dead," as a sort of dare (it involves a dead couple that rot slowly during the course of the short novel). They read it, but only the person that lead the book liked it.

The books that I enjoyed most growing up were the L.M. Montgomery Anne & Emily novels and L.J.Smith's ridiculous sf romances (minus Mormon subtext at least). I was a half Jew, half Italian suburbanite athiest who had nothing in common with turn of the century Prince Edward Island or a coven of witches in fictional Massachusetts island. That was part of why I enjoyed those world's so much, I think.

michaelframe (#3,760)

To this day I have a mad crush on Anne Shirley.

Bittersweet (#765)

Me too! Well, OK, not really a crush as much as an ongoing desire to be Anne Shirley.

(OK, so my crush is really on Gilbert.)

atipofthehat (#797)

OK, want to get real? From Wikipedia:

A five-year, $14 million study of U.S. adult literacy involving lengthy interviews of U.S. adults, the most comprehensive study of literacy ever commissioned by the U.S. government, was released in September 1993. It involved lengthy interviews of over 26,700 adults statistically balanced for age, gender, ethnicity, education level, and location (urban, suburban, or rural) in 12 states across the U.S. and was designed to represent the U.S. population as a whole. This government study showed that 21% to 23% of adult Americans were not "able to locate information in text", could not "make low-level inferences using printed materials", and were unable to "integrate easily identifiable pieces of information."

The study detailed the percentages of U.S. adults who worked full-time, part-time, were unemployed, or who had given up looking for a job and were no longer in the work force. The study also reported the average hourly wages for those who were employed. These data were grouped by literacy level – how well the interviewees responded to material written in English – and indicated that 40 million to 44 million of the 191 million U.S. adults (21% to 23% of them) in the least literate group earned a yearly average of $2,105 and about 50 million adults (25% to 28% of them) in the next-least literate of the five literacy groups earned a yearly average of $5,225 at a time when the U.S. Census Bureau considered the poverty level threshold for an individual to be $7,363 per year.

A follow-up study by the same group of researchers using a smaller database (19,714 interviewees) was released in 2006 that showed no statistically significant improvement in U.S. adult literacy. These studies assert that 46% to 51% of U.S. adults read so poorly that they earn "significantly" below the threshold poverty level for an individual.

During the same period, the US Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook published that the United States had a 99% literacy rate based on census data.

cinetrix (#47)

Wikipedia cited as an authoritative source? Really? [weeps] At least click through/cite whatever primary-ish source that's linked to on the bottom of the page.

As for Norton Juster, yes he is a white male writer. From Brooklyn, no less! But he also wrote "The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics." Are we trying to suggest that little girls need not trouble themselves with math?

Ah, but don't listen to me. During my suburban, northeastern, Catholic girlhood [in addition to "The Phantom Tollbooth" and a million other books], I read Esther Hautzig and Allegra Maud Goldman", so I was pretty sure I wanted to be a mouthy Jewish girl when I grew up.

Math class is hard!

cinetrix (#47)

See, now, that wasn't so hard! Thanks, kitten! And I do love the use of "mosaic" in the opening line of the preface, which so perfectly situates the study as a product of 1993/the end of the David "gorgeous mosaic" Dinkins era. Here's why I bristle at the wiki cite: I teach the best and brightest at a public university in a state with 13% to 20% illiteracy as recently as 2003. It's not enough to read. One must read critically. And wiki ain't vetted, yo.

I know wiki is not a valid reference. But I do think it is semi-valid in a sort of cliff-notes-easy-to-understand way for semi-illiterate people. A lot of people may not be able to tolerate or understand the fairly dry technical/academic writing in most published studies. A long while ago I had to translate a letter to an ex Playboy model friend from her businessman boyfriend in England. She couldn't tell what he was trying to say to her.

scrooge (#2,697)

Of course Wikipedia is vetted! It's vetted by anyone and everyone.

Didn't you see that study a few years ago? A (yes, properly credentialed) scientific type deliberately introduced errors into various Wikipedia articles and waited to see what would happen. I think the errors were corrected (correctly!) on average within 15 minutes.

Of course, it's a good idea to do some checking before you take these articles as gospel (as it is with any other information sources, since those hallowed academics people defer to also make mistakes sometimes), but really I think turning your nose up because an article was written by amateurs is just intellectual snobbery.

scrooge (#2,697)


The December 2005 article in Nature, "Internet encyclopaedias go head to head," reveals the amazing accuracy of WikiPedia. Despite the fact that it is over 10 times the size of "traditional" print-based and commercial encyclopedias, WikiPedia contains about the same number of inaccuracies per entry as Encyclopedia Britannica.

Moff (#28)

I'm not actually sure you even have to read critically, or be taught to read critically; I wouldn't be surprised if simply reading lots and lots of different things turned out to be enough.

cinetrix (#47)

@kitten: "A lot of people may not be able to tolerate or understand the fairly dry technical/academic writing in most published studies." Really? Why not? Is semi-literate what should be encouraged as a best-case scenario? Rather than getting what you can and resolving to understand in time that which you can't? Seems awfully cynical in a don't you worry your pretty little head, masses, sort of way.
@Scrooge: it's not quite monkeys typing, true, but it's not quite there, vetting wise, yet. Which does not indicate that my nose has risen above the horizon line in any case. More it's that I think that while at university one might avail oneself of the holdings of the library one's fees support. [I will leave aside for the moment the desperation-reeking nature of such a non-scientific article appearing in the once-proud Nature.]

scrooge (#2,697)

I don't know, cinetrix, but if I were you I wouldn't go out in any rainstorms unless you want to drown.

Ingrid C (#3,596)

As someone who deserted the Comp. Lit. field many years ago, and who has two young girls at home, I absolutely agree with this approach. My job is to facilitate their exposure to all kinds of books, whether they are written by white men from Brooklyn, Dominican immigrants, young Nigerian females, librarians from Maryland or dead French aviators, with no further agenda than giving them a taste of pluralism. Let them figure things out on their own. But make sure there is diversity in what they read.

Ingrid C (#3,596)

By the way, it was a reply to Moff. Not sure what happened with my posting.

HiredGoons (#603)

Math Class IS hard.

cinetrix (#47)

augh. close ital!

I think considerably less of DFW having seen him use "luminous" as a descriptor of someone else's prose.

LadyHazard (#5,067)

Must quote DFW to validate my opinion.

cinetrix (#47)

"Lapidary" woulda been a lot classier.

Broseph Leray (#6,164)

If literature is one "spirit" "addressing" another one, as per Miss Emily up there, it seems kind of paranoid schizophrenic if you only talk to yourself.

vespavirgin (#1,422)

I can't truly feel anything for any character that's not a half-chilean woman with nappy hair.

untitled HD (#4,555)

there's a Wikipedia study about her, too!

Ingrid C (#3,596)

How old were the girls in this group? The club could sandwich Phantom Tollbooth between something like Annie John and Before We Were Free.

tripco (#7,143)

Thank you very much for this illuminating post. It stands as refutation to Ms. Dean's earlier. Even in her comments here, she remains committed to an ideology, rather than interested in an experience. This makes her a prisoner, not a reader.

Moff (#28)

Snort. *fart noise*

barnhouse (#1,326)

It's possible to be blinded by any kind of conviction, if you aren't willing to entertain opposing ideas. I thought Ms. Dean's comments above (Moff's too) were aimed at a balance of views, an approach I giantly endorse.

MichelleDean (#7,041)

I thought I was a rat terrier, after Franzen the rant? But I can't keep track.

MichelleDean (#7,041)

Franzen the rat, I mean. (Not my metaphor.)

roboloki (#1,724)

works well either way.

tripco (#7,143)

With all possible respect, Ms. Dean – You're prisoner, terrier, clinician, and literary actuary (keeping count of who is what and where), all rolled up into one. This is not to say that I don't agree with your whole point about what I would call 'historical editing', the who gets in and who gets cut out part of art/literature. I do. I just think you were pissed off at Franzen for his – oh I dunno – "weakness" – at permitting his picture to be on the cover of Time. It maybe should have been someone fun like Glenn Beck or one of the crazies from Alaska. (Right next to Canada on the map!).

MichelleDean (#7,041)

Okay, this a more rational comment, but this will be my last reply to you, because this isn't even my post (sorry Maria) and you're hijacking it to call me names. I don't even know how you can preface your crazed ad hominems with "with all possible respect" but you don't seem big on the earth logic. That said: I'm not pissed at Franzen about anything, if I am annoyed it's with the critics, I'm not responsible for your poor reading comprehension skills, and your obsession with me personally is bordering on creepy stalking at this point. Please desist.

Good night and good luck, sir.

scrooge (#2,697)

Small point:

Can we please use "ad hominem" in its original sense? The original sense of "argumentum ad hominem" being an argument designed to appeal to the individual addressed more than to impartial reason (See Fowler). I realize hardly anybody still uses it this way, but… an old pedant begs to be humored.

I would suggest "contra hominem" as an alternative.

tripco (#7,143)

I agree with you about the hijacking thing, and also apologize to Maria — and I am not in the least bit obsessed with you. We can safely put this thing to bed. I will say, though, I have read some of your stuff and you're pretty thin skinned for someone who is quick with a very acid pen. No?
To cases, and then over -
You offer a provocation right off the bat: "But really, we're still doing the thing where we elevate a fiction-writing white men as the Greatest Thing In American Writing Today? And not blushing a little when we do this?"
Tell me what that is, if not a form of a-priori bigotry? Is that poor reading skill on my part? You haven't read the book. (Nor have I and I hope it's good, or I am gonna feel schmucky.)
Where I do agree with you, is "In the age after we've realized that white men are not the end-all and be-all of humanity, it seems worth trying to build a canon that says if we are separated from one another by class and race and gender and any number of things, the very least we can do is recognize that in a literature that's really about "what it is to be human," every single one of those experiences must be given airtime. It's not a request; it's a requirement.²"
And with that, I apologize for my rudeness, and sign off.

You sure write a lot of words, man.

Sean Peters (#6,014)

You're kidding, right? Wikipedia was found to be more accurate than the Encyclopedia Britannica… and I think that's probably good enough for a reply to a blog post.

Sean Peters (#6,014)

Arrgh, what is up with the comment system? This was meant to be in reply to cinetrix.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

I'll count it as a reply to me.

Marco Romano (#4,090)

"The Phantom Tollbooth" has been on my Amazon wishlist for a while. Thanks for another recommendation.

Emily (#20)

Thank you so much for this, Maria.

Miles Klee (#3,657)

I liked this, though I will admit to a bias trickling down from my childhood over-identification with Milo through age/sex/race/temperament/name.

In fact, that book was based on me.

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