Category Archives: Lewis Carroll

This Saturday: Fall Meeting of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America

This coming Saturday, November 12th, the Lewis Carroll Society of North American will be having its fall meeting at the New York Institute of Technology. And guess what — the Saturday events are free and open to the public! From the society’s website here is an overview of the day (the complete agenda is available here):

Speakers include Morton Cohen on Carroll’s epiphanies; Adriana Peliano, founder of the Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil, on the metamorphosis of Alice in illustrations and art; Alison Gopnik on her discovery of the Iffley Yew and how Dodgson’s real life affected his works; Emily R. Aguilo-Perez on film adaptations; Jeff Menges, editor of Alice Illustrated (coming from Dover in October), on illustrators; and James Fotopoulos, an artist and film-maker who made an avant-garde film called Alice in Wonderland and will also display related art.

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A Child Friend’s Story

A few weeks back Maria Tatar had a piece in the New York Times, “No More Adventures in Wonderland” in which she noted that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland  and Peter Pan were books based on stories created for real children. I have absolutely no wish to reopen the conversation that was the result of this piece, but I do want to point out some recent pieces related to the Alice exhibit opening tomorrow at the Tate Liverpool that do reinforce Tatar’s (and my) point about Alice being created for a particular audience, that is Alice Liddell, one of Carroll’s child friends.

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In the Classroom: Alice versus Dorothy

Every year I read aloud Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to my fourth grade class and then have them read on their own The Wizard of Oz. Along the way we learn about the books’ authors and illustrators, something of their publishing history, and perhaps view the most well-known movies associated with the two.  This year, rather than doing an elaborate project with either book as I’ve done before, (as we’ve already got another elaborate project underway — a silent movie homage to Charlie Chaplin) I had the kids do blog posts comparing the two books.  Now I’ve always found them connected for various reasons and so it was interesting to see what the kids had to say. Here are links to some of their posts:

Thanks to Anita Silvey whose Almanac entry yesterday inspired this post.

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Ease on Down to Wonderland

Last night Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd’s musical version of Alice in Wonderland arrived on Broadway.  Now I am indeed quite a Carrollian, but a fairly selective one. That is, I don’t go to stage versions or buy book adaptations that do not seem likely to fit my tastes.  And so I’d held off going to this version based on the videos I’d seen which left me completely cold.  Charles Isherwood’s review in today’s Times only reinforced that feeling. He writes:

The model here appears to be the Broadway behemoth “Wicked,” which recast L. Frank Baum’s “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” as a moral-dispensing tale of exceptionally gifted young women (hitherto known as witches) finding common ground in girl power. Unfortunately “Wonderland” reminded me even more strongly of another latter-day iteration of the Baum story, the bloated 1978 movie version of the Broadway musical “The Wiz.”

You’ll recall — or maybe you won’t — that in the film the teenage Dorothy of the stage version became a grown-up, put-upon New York schoolteacher played by a saucer-eyed Diana Ross. The adventurer in “Wonderland” is also a harassed New York schoolteacher, Alice (the capable Janet Dacal), who aspires to write children’s books. Recently separated from her unemployed husband, she has moved to the “kingdom of Queens” with her daughter Chloe (Carly Rose Sonenclar, a good actress and an almost preternaturally skilled singer).

The problem for me is that Baum and Carroll’s stories are so different. The first has a driving quest plot — Dorothy wants to get home, but Alice hasn’t a similar wish in her original book — the only vague plot thread is her desire to get to the beautiful garden.  The heart of Alice’s story is the wit, the language play, and the episodic encounters with odd creatures.  I have no problem with someone figuring out how to strengthen the plotline as long as they maintain the humour and wit, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.  (Nor was it, for that matter, in last year’s Tim Burton effort.)  And so Alice as Dorothy-in-the-Wiz just doesn’t work for me. (And by the way, Whoopie Goldberg already did an urban Alice for kids years ago.)

One film that does, I feel, give a sense of what Carroll was all about is Dennis Potter’s Dreamchild which is currently and frustratingly not available on DVD.  It does seem to be on youtube in bits so here is the first part so you can get a taste:

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Where I’ll be on Saturday

The Lewis Carroll Society of North America
Fall Meeting: Saturday, November 6, 2010
New York Institute of Technology
11th floor Auditorium 16 W. 61st St. between Broadway and Columbus Ave. New York City
The meeting is free, and open to the public.

12:00 Andrew Sellon “Welcoming Remarks”
12:05–12:20 Edward Guiliano “Greetings, and A Few Wise Words About Martin Gardner
12:20 –12:40 Oleg Lipchenko “Butcher in the Ruff: Rendering the Snark (A Work in Progress)”
12:40 – 1:30 Adam Gopnik “Looking-Glass and Broken Mirror: Honoring the Spirit of Lewis Carroll”
1:30–2:00 Break and Book signing: Messrs. Gopnik & Lipchenko
2:00–3:15 Jenny Woolf “Viewing Lewis Carroll as a Real Person”
3:15–3:55 Cathy Rubin in conversation with Andrew Sellon “The Real Alice Liddell: A Conversation with Pictures”
3:55–4:25 Break and Book signing: Mmes. Rubin & Woolf
4:25–4:35 August Imholtz, Janet Jurist Election of New LCSNA Officers
4:35–5:15 Andrew Sellon “Meeting Mr. Dodgson: One Carrollian’s Journey”

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Alice, Dodgson, and Algebra

There was the oddest op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times,  “Algebra in Wonderland” by Melanie Bayley.  She feels that Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), who was a math tutor at Oxford’s Christ Church College was with his famous story creating, “…a mishmash of satire directed at the advances taking place in Dodgson’s field.”  Having read the book perhaps 40 times (since 1990 I’ve read it aloud every year to my class) I know it incredibly well. I’ve also read a lot about what could be behind the story. While it makes complete sense that he was commenting on the real Alice’s life in many ways it doesn’t make sense to me that he was also doing so about all sorts of mathematical theories as Bayley posits.  Still I’ll be curious to see what other Carrollians who know way more than me think about this.

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Tim in Underland

I saw the Tim Burton Alice yesterday in IMAX 3-D and I’m neither thrilled nor annoyed.  Despite the lavish look it was pretty meh for me, I’m afraid.  I went in knowing it wasn’t Carroll’s story and so that was fine. But the story it was didn’t hold together very well for me.  There is Alice missing her father, the adventurer, and then taking his place at the end. Good enough. But the business of her becoming engaged at the beginning in a Carrollian-absurd-way?  And was the Hatter meant to be a father-stand-in or fiance-stand-in or what?  Felt a bit cobbled together with some elaborate visuals, but (dare I say it?) a bit dull at times.

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Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, Neil Gaiman

The Nursery Harry

As I do every year,  I’m reading aloud Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  And as I also do every year, I showed my class The Nursery Alice, Lewis Carroll’s cringe-inducing attempt to adapt his story for “Children aged from Nought to Five.”  After regaling them with a few choice bits I told them I’d take a stab at The Nursery Harry and so, with apologies to Ms. Rowling, here’s the beginning:

ONCE upon a time, there was a little boy called Harry.  Would you like to hear his story?

Well, his parents had died. Isn’t that an awful thing?  And so he lived with his relatives, the Dursleys.

Would you like to know how they treated him?  Did they give him treats and remember his birthday?  Oh, not at all.  In fact, they were horrible to him.  They made him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. Yes, they did!  And kept him a secret from the neighbors. Can you imagine?

Some of my students are trying to do their own Nursery versions of beloved books.  Check out this very clever Nursery Golden Compass.

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Awaiting An Alice

Seems more Tim Burton than Lewis Carroll, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I reserve judgment until I’ve seen the whole thing.

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Fine. I Did it. 25 Random Things About You

I was tagged to do this on facebook, ended up having fun doing it, and so here  is a slightly edited version of what I did over there. The rules are: once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you. (I did some tagging over at facebook, but if anyone wants to do it on their blog — consider yourself tagged as well.)

1. Fortunately, I remembered Remy Charlip’s book Fortunately.

Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.

Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.

Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane.

Unfortunately, the motor exploded.

Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane.

Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute.

2. Unfortunately, that only gave me my first random thing.

3. Fortunately, even though I’m not always into these things, I hate to be left out so I am happy to have been tagged for this. (Thanks Jen and April!)

4. Unfortunately, it makes me self-conscious as I wonder what anyone really would want to know about me.

5. Fortunately, I have a certain degree of hubris so will forge ahead.

6. Unfortunately, that means I just have to mention my dog, Lucy. A poodle. She turned me into a sappy dog person. Love to watch The Dog Whisperer and feel smug as she is not like those dogs —so far (she’s still a puppy).

7. Fortunately, I do like other living things too. Say cats.

“Name the different kinds of people,” said Miss Lupescu. “Now.”

Bod thought for a moment. “The living, ” he said. “Er. The dead.” he stopped. Then, “…Cats? he offered, uncertainly.

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

8. Unfortunately, I’m terribly allergic to them. Cats, that is.

9. Fortunately, that means no cat boxes in my house.

10. Unfortunately, it probably means Sharyn November thinks a bit less of me.

11. Fortunately, there are a few other dog folks out there hopefully tolerant of my new status as one of them.

12. Unfortunately, this thread seems to be dribbling away and I’ve got to come up with another random thing. Ah, the living and the dead…

13. Fortunately, my favorite book this year won the Newbery!!!!

14. Unfortunately, my favorite book of all time, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland did not.

15. Fortunately, it couldn’t and that doesn’t matter to Lewis Carroll. He’s dead.

16. Unfortunately, the Newbery appeared out of touch to some of the living out there.

17. Fortunately, it does matter to Neil Gaiman and other living (and, I’d like to think, dead).

18. Unfortunately, I’ve got to move on again.

19. Fortunately, we’ve got Obama.

20. Unfortunately, he’s got a hell of a mess to clean up.

21. Fortunately, he appears up to the task.

22. Unfortunately, the world is still as it was — full of war, famine, and horror.

23. Fortunately, the world is still as it was — full of hope, goodness, and happiness.

24. Unfortunately, I’m not sure these are all random facts about me.

25. Fortunately, I think that is okay.

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