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Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn Heights’

Dear Stanley

November 3, 2011 | by

When I was a senior at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights, I was one of the editors of our school yearbook. We used the school darkroom to print every photograph in the book by hand, a massive task. My fingernails smelled like chemicals for months, and my eyes, I was sure, had permanently adjusted to the dark. There were eight of us, six girls and two boys, whom we called the “sex toys,” as if any of us had ever seen such a thing. Saint Ann’s had (and continues to have) the reputation of an artsy school, and we did our best to keep it that way. We divvied up the tasks with the guidance of our photography teacher, Heather, whom we trusted because she sometimes snuck cigarettes in the school building after hours.

Somehow it fell to me to take a photograph of our founding headmaster, Stanley Bosworth, for the front of the book. The picture I took of Stanley was unremarkable—he is leaning against the building, looking slightly off into the distance. He’s wearing a plaid sports jacket, and the frames of his eyeglasses are tinted. He looks like an owl crossed with the hero of a seventies French film, and that’s just how Stanley was. He had founded the school in 1965 and had been its fearless leader ever since. I printed the photograph on the same paper as a photograph of the school building, so that the building and Stanley would be together forever. I certainly couldn’t imagine one without the other. The limestone lines of the beaux arts building zigzag across Stanley’s plaid jacket, and come to a point over his head; he is the mermaid on the prow of the ship, hands behind his back, always at ease.

Stanley loved the photograph. One evening, when I was alone in the darkroom, Heather passed me a piece of paper, told me it was top secret, and that she would take it back when I was through reading it. It was Stanley’s letter, which was to run opposite the photo in the yearbook, and it was addressed to me. Read More »

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‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ at Fifty

October 31, 2011 | by

'The Phantom Tollbooth' by Norton Juster turns fifty.

Even the most confident of writers can be excused for wondering if words, mere black-and-white glyphs, can compete in a world filled with ever more animated, flashing, full-color, special-effects-crammed and interactive visual media. At such times, it’s helpful to remember a passage from Norton Juster’s children’s novel, The Phantom Tollbooth, describing a visit by the hero, Milo, to the archives of the Soundkeeper in the Lands Beyond.

The Soundkeeper boasts that her vaults contain “every sound that’s ever been made in history.” To prove it, she opens a drawer and pulls out “a small brown envelope,” explaining that it contains “the exact tune George Washington whistled when he crossed the Delaware on that icy night in 1777.” Milo, Juster writes, “peered into the envelope and, sure enough, that’s exactly what was in it.” The narrative moves briskly on.

Like much of the best fiction for children, this scene illustrates how writing well consists not only of knowing what to put in, but also of knowing what to leave out. Read More »

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