Wednesday, September 21, 2011


From the mouth of Norton Juster at the Brooklyn Book Festival this past Sunday.

I didn't take down the exact sentence.

Mr. Juster and Jules Feiffer were sitting along with Leonard Marcus at a table in front of a shockingly small (small considering the perfection of The Phantom Tollbooth) audience telling stories about their collaboration on the book.

One story concerned a prank Mr. Juster pulled on Mr. Feiffer at the Overseas Press Club. He had had a lot to drink that evening, and he said that (somewhere along the way) he had been feeling wuzzy.

I thought, "Wuzzy? . . . Woozy?" But he really did mean wuzzy, which the OED defines as "confused, fuddled, vague."

Some time-minded people--possibly from the Knopf publicity department--did a grand disservice to everybody who stood on line to have their books signed. The author and illustrator signed only their names. No Brooklyn. No New York. No date. Said one publicist: We have to move things along.

If the line had been longer--the audience did not even fill all 300 seats in the auditorium--I could see the publicist's point. But if The Phantom Tollbooth is, let's say, my idea of a True Book, and I am genuinely excited about having my book signed, and I go out to Brooklyn to stand on line for tickets and then stand on line for a good seat, and enjoy watching Jules Feiffer heckle a little boy who's giving him a hard time about the number of horses and the number of riders, and enjoy listening to the cadences of two very old friends, I don't see how moving things along will leave me with a happy memory when the day is over. In fact, once I got home I was a little sorry my book was signed at all. Which is too bad when you think about it.

I wonder what Jason Epstein (both the man c. 1961 and today) would say on this subject. I say (in this case) sign completely or don't sign at all.

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