Every once in a while, we all want to escape. Not the metaphoric “Oh I’m done with reality, pass me a book” escape – but an actual one. To travel to uncharted territories, go on an adventure, or simply just get lost in your own city. Throughout this issue, you’ll have stumbled across a few of those who went out and did exactly that. But in this column, we explore the deeper meanings behind those who have created worlds about escapism. The likes of Verne, Lewis, and Clarke are amongst the greats that created such worlds. I mean, who else would come up with an entire world in a children’s wardrobe other than Lewis? So to honor those who have created such elaborate escapes and worlds within worlds, I bring to you the escapism bookworms edition. This post is entirely sponsored and inspired by a conversation with a colleague that started with “Disclaimer: I totally live in a fantasy world in my head,” and the t-shirt quote “Me? Crazy? I should get down off this unicorn and slap you!”
My first choice for this edition is a kiddie book favorite, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Yes it has illustrations, yes it’s short, and yes it’s for children – but it’s amazing. The issues it raises might go right over a child’s head but it really makes you think as an adult. The story revolves around Milo, a bored child and his boring afterschool routine – his words, not mine. Tired of everything around him, and unimpressed by almost everything, he receives a mysterious package. Upon assembling the contents of the package – a tollbooth – he gets into his electric toy car and drives through it expecting nothing more than the usual humdrum. To his not-so-mundane surprise, he finds himself on the road to Dictionopolis in the Lands Beyond. Teaming with a dog-clock named Tock – Milo escapes his boredom by playing word games and learning math all in an attempt to save the Kingdom of Wisdom before making it home in time for supper.
From Juster to Carroll, our next great escape takes us to terribly wonderful: Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. With Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass, Alice escapes her boring life by following a fully clothed rabbit that whizzes past her while exclaiming “I’m late!” So naturally, once said rabbit goes through the rabbit hole, Alice follows. Upon eating and drinking all that’s presented in front of her with the respective “EAT ME” and “DRINK ME” tags, she shrinks, grows, cries, and eventually finds herself in Wonderland. Escaping the wrath of the Red Queen, saving the kingdom, and befriending the Mad Hatter are no easy tasks. Years later, she goes back to Wonderland through a looking-glass – in an attempt to escape an oppressed and unimaginative life above. Dark and sinister things have befallen her much-loved land, but Alice is, after all, Wonderland’s saviour. This time tasked with defeating the merciless Jabberwocky, Alice once again dances around her existence and that of Wonderland, ultimately saving it. She returns once again to an appropriate reality where she goes on to greater things. After all, Alice is known to “sometimes believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”
And finally, I give unto you Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Following suit as the aforementioned literature – the unassuming Richard Mayhew finds himself sucked into London Below and forgotten in London Above when his mundane lifestyle gets to him. A thrilling adventure awaits him as he comes to the rescue of a not-so-damsel-in-distress, addressed by the general public of London Below as Lady Door, and is suddenly unable to reintegrate into his “normal life.” Battling the fabled monster in London’s sewers, escaping henchmen from the dawn of time, and conversing with the Earl at Earls Court are all part of his new life in the city of those who have fallen between the cracks. But beware, for once you’ve read this book, there’s no turning back. London as you know it will forever change for you and it’ll only be a matter of time till you treat the book’s words as law. Because let’s face it, Gaiman’s Neverwhere is London’s ultimate guidebook.
It was a matter of time till the books got to me. Escapism is a recurring literary theme in most of my reads – it could be the reality. See you next month with travel related reads! …I found myself turning right, and then I woke up – for it was all a dream.