Thursday, June 16, 2011

Norton Juster Interview



Writer Norton Juster is interviewed by The Onion's A.V. Club upon the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. This is an insightful interview covering Norton's early life and his major books.

I started writing children’s books when I was stationed in Newfoundland. We had things to do, but our time was never that full. I began to do some little stories and watercolor illustrations. And we were living on a barracks ship at the time, so I’d hang them up to dry, I’d hang them up on the bulkhead. After about a week or so, the commanding officer called me in and let me know that naval officers did not draw pictures of gremlins and palaces and castles and goblins, looking at me in a way like, “What are you, some kind of queer?” I had to stop it. He forbade me to do that. But I was hooked.

Just out of a 38 month Navy stint, he found he was sharing a Brooklyn Heights address with cartoonist Jules Feiffer. The two collaborated on TOLLBOOTH.



There are some things Jules likes to draw and some things he does not like to draw. I love maps, and I always wanted to do a book with map endpapers. Jules didn’t like to draw maps, didn’t know how to draw maps, and wasn’t interested in drawing maps. So I drew the map and he traced it over so it looked like part of all the other illustrations. At one point near the end where the armies of Wisdom appear to rescue them from the demons, when they’re rescuing Rhyme and Reason, he didn’t like to draw horses. The army was mounted on horses, so he asked me one day if he could put the army on cats. I said no, I didn’t think that was a terrific idea. So he drew one silhouette of a horse and then projected it back several times so that was all there was, and he put some people on it.

It's all here.

Below: Juster's THE DOT AND THE LINE, an Academy Award winning short animated by Chuck Jones:

1 comment:

Peter Bangs said...

i remember seeing the cartoon of this as a kid and being totally amazed some 30 years later when my wife introduced me to the book. Fantastic writer who seems to attract top artistic talent.