Alice in Columbia Land

“Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Visit of Alice Liddell Hargreaves to Columbia for the Ceremonies observing Mr. Dodgson’s Birth Centennial,” the spring meeting of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America took place this past Saturday in Columbia University’s Butler Library a scant three blocks from my home.

The meeting being at Columbia, made for something of a full circle for me; you see, I attended my very first Society meeting there a decade ago. We met in an old, dusty classroom (most likely renovated by now), Michael Patrick Hearn* spoke on Tenniel, current president Andrew Sellon presented a lovely theater piece about Carroll, and I first met Leonard S. Marcus who came because he had a new edition of Alice’s Adventures coming out with photographs by Abelardo Morell (highly recommended, by the way).

The following summer I went to an extraordinary centenary programme at Christ Church, Oxford and bonded for life with Carrollians from all over the world. Since then I’ve gone regularly to meetings here in New York and once even zipped over to Toronto for a joint meeting with the Canadian society. When in the U.K. I usually meet up with Mark Richards and others of the British Lewis Carroll Society.

A day before the meeting three remarkably heavy boxes showed up at my building. More Newbery submissions was my first thought until I noticed they all were labeled Dark Horse, a name unfamiliar to me. But not for long. “A kid came by and knew exactly what they were,” the doorman told me. Aha, a comic publisher, I realized! These were the spanking new copies of speaker Bryan Talbot’s Alice in Sunderland that I’d volunteered to take over to the meeting. And so early Saturday two Carrollians came over (after breakfasting at Tom’s Restaurant) and together we lugged the books over to Butler where they were snapped up within the hour.

The meeting went beautifully. Our first speaker was Amirouche Moftefi who spoke on “Logical Writings by and About Lewis Carroll.” He was followed by Bryan Talbot who spoke with such passion about his work on Alice in Sunderland. This was the highlight of the meeting for me because Bryan and I are both members of the Yahoo Lewis Carroll Group where he had been keeping us informed about the project for years. I’d seen some of the pages, but to finally meet Bryan, hear him talk about it in such depth, and see the final book was a wonderful, wonderful experience.

I’d invited Betsy Bird to come and so we went off on our own for lunch at Kitchenette Uptown (narrowly escaping the worst of their Saturday brunch lines) and had a grand chat before heading back to get our books signed by Bryan.

The highlight of the afternoon was the dual presentation on annotating by Michael Patrick Hearn and Selwyn Goodacre. It was fascinating. Michael addressed the overall topic of annotating while Selwyn delved into the history of annotating the Alice books in particular. Afterwards they jointly answered a slew of thoughtful questions from the audience.

Next was a screening of the movie Dreamchild. I love. love, love this movie; while definitely a fiction (as the real story is quite different) it is just so lovely. It was filmed at Christ Church, Jim Henson did the puppets for the dream sequences, and it was written by the amazing Dennis Potter. Unfortunately, it is not available on DVD and so I lent them my precious VHS copy to use for the screening. After the formal meeting we all went to a Carrollian’s home for a lovely get together.

Please visit Betsy’s blog for another view of the events including a far more detailed accounting of the morning speakers (as well as a view of the sartorial style of male Society members).

* Michael’s wikipedia entry is not comprehensive by any means, but it gives you a beginning idea of what he has done if not, by any means, all.

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