Monday, 15 March 2021


My obituary of the writer (and architect) Norton Juster was published in The Guardian online on 11 March, I am hoping it will appear in the paper paper soon, but you can link to it online here

The odd thing about it was I couldn't actually remember when I read The Phantom Tollbooth; I may have been too old or advanced in my reading to have latched on to it the first time. In fact I may have been introduced to it by my college roommate Winsor Watson; that idea popped into my head long after I had filed my copy. And I don't recall ever reading The Dot And The Line; but it's on You Tube and when I showed it to my son, who's 17 and very good at maths, he loved it. I realised I had never read The Phantom Tollbooth to him; my copy was probably left in storage in London.

And as I wrote it the day before my birthday, the quote from the Terrible Trivium seemed especially apt: “If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones that are so difficult.”

The piece as printed is virtually as I wrote it; the only omissions were part of the first quote from Jules Feiffer, which talked about their lifelong friendship, and then the second quote from Feiffer which closes the piece; it was cut short. The rest of it, which would have ended my story, was "He was my oldest friend...and we managed to concoct a classic together. I miss him badly. Who knew?".Somehow I felt that "who knew?" was the perfect way to summarize Juster's life, and indeed, his work.

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