Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374116392, 48pp.
Publication Date: November 25, 2008
A charming fable that evokes a life lesson we would all do well to learn: living and loving are time well spent.Once, there was a boy named Charlie. He had a pretty nice life . . . but it wasn’t perfect. So one day he packed up all his time—all his round, squishy years and square, mushy months, down to every itsy-bitsy second—in his suitcase and locked it up safe, said goodbye to his parents, and set off to find something better to spend his time on. Charlie traveled all over the world in search of the perfect thing to make him happy, but that turned out to be much harder to find than he thought. In the meantime, his itsybitsy seconds and silky, smooth hours and raggedy days ticked away and vanished, and soon they added up to weeks and months and years—so that once Charlie stopped his traveling and realized what he really needed out of life, it was almost too late. Almost. Every so often, a book comes along that seems to capture an important truth for a particular time and generation. This is one of those books: a unique story about the relentless search for perfect happiness that preoccupies so many of us. ORIGINS OF THE TRAVELER The Traveler stemmed from something I heard over dinner, the evening before I embarked on a drive from Boston to Los Angeles: “We only have so much time to give.” I don’t remember the comment’s context, but its phrasing struck me. I thought about it literally as I packed for my trip . . . If you can give time, you can keep time—or save time, too; why would anyone do that? And if time is a form of currency, I wonder what it looks like . . . I quickly decided on the story’s basic premise: a boy, not content with his life, decides to pack up his time and leave home in search of something perfect to spend it on. The next morning I pushed off from Boston and headed west. Days later, immediately upon my arrival in Los Angeles, I sat down and wrote The Traveler. ILLUSTRATION COLLABORATION In addition to being my older brother, Daniel is a fantastic artist, and I’m so glad he agreed to be the lead on the huge task of illustrating The Traveler. We’ve figured out a fun and collaborative working arrangement: first, we share our ideas on what sort of illustration we’re looking for—we consider the role it will play in plot and thematic development, and, of course, the aesthetic appeal—then we draw up preliminary sketches. Once they’re completed, we discuss these crude images and, after selecting the best concepts from each, Daniel takes over. He ties together our rough ideas, meliorates them, adds more of his own, and magically creates an illustration. We critique it together, then Daniel continues to develop and hone the illustration until we’re happy with the result.
“The Traveler is an instant illumination.” —GORE VIDAL