See if you can’t dig up a copy of the August 2011 Princeton Magazine. There’s a good cover feature by Stuart Mitchner called “Alice’s American Cousin,” about author Joyce Carol Oates and her lifelong love of Alice.
"Wonderland," By Dallas Piotrowski. Giclée Print, 2004.
Once upon a time an eight-year-old girl living in upstate New York received a birthday present that changed her life. The girl’s name was Joyce and the gift from her paternal grandmother was the 1946 Junior Library edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, illustrated by John Tenniel. It was a match made in literary heaven, from the companionable sight-rhyme of Joyce and Alice to Alice’s idea that there “ought to be a book written about me….And when I grow up I’ll write one,“ a goal her American cousin Joyce shared and fulfilled many times over when she grew up.
In her essay, “First Loves from ‘Jabberwocky’ to ‘After Apple Picking,’” reprinted in The Faith of a Writer (2003), Joyce Carol Oates calls her Grandmother Woodside’s gift “the great treasure of my childhood and the most profound literary influence of my life.” It was “love at first sight,” not only with Alice (“with whom I identified unquestionably”) but with “the phenomenon of Book.” Six years later, Grandmother Woodside gave Joyce her first typewriter, a Remington portable.
On view in the grown-up author’s Princeton study is her artist friend [and LCSNA member!] Dallas Piotrowski’s colorful reworking of the Tenniel sketch showing Alice “opening out like the largest telescope there ever was,” having just eaten the Eat Me cake. The altered Alice has a pencil in one hand and a book in the other and a face not unlike that of the study’s inhabitant. Joyce’s title for the picture of herself as Alice is “Curiouser and Curiouser,” which is what Alice is saying as the cake has its way with her. [...]
Dame Gillian Beer
In the last edition of the Knight Letter we noted that Dame Gillian Beer, King Edward Professor of English Literature Emeritus at Cambridge, had delivered a lecture entitled “Alice in Time” last March at the Radcliff Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. Now you can read a short review of the lecture in the online version of the Radcliff Magazine.
Beer discussed Carroll’s preoccupation with time as one reason for the Alice books’ enduring popularity; she also remarked on the upcoming anniversary: “The 150th anniversary of the first Alice book won’t occur for several more years, but ‘if people are getting primed already,’ Beer said, ‘Lord knows what will happen in 2015.’”
We’ll take that as a challenge, then.
Linguists have been ruminating on Humpy Dumpty’s theories for over a century. Now, his discussion about words’ meaning is being used by scientists in conjunction with new studies about an innate connection between sounds and representation. First, take this test and see “If certain sounds really do evoke particular meanings then, given a foreign word and two alternative translations, people should be able to get the correct meaning more often than not.”
Here’s the beginning David Robson’s article in the 16 July 2011 issue of New Scientist, “Kiki or bouba? In search of language’s missing link“:
Humpty Dumpty and Alice, illustrated by Peter Newell
“It’s a stupid name enough!” Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. “What does it mean?”
“Must a name mean something?” Alice asked doubtfully.
“Of course it must,” Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: “My name means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”
PURE whimsy, you might think. Nearly 100 years of linguistics research has been based on the assumption that words are just collections of sounds – an agreed acoustic representation that has little to do with their actual meaning. There should be nothing in nonsense words such as “Humpty Dumpty” that would give away the character’s egg-like figure, any more than someone with no knowledge of English could be expected to infer that the word “rose” represents a sweet-smelling flower.
Yet a spate of recent studies challenge this idea. They suggest that we seem instinctively to link certain sounds with particular sensory perceptions. Some words really do evoke Humpty’s “handsome” rotundity. Others might bring to mind a spiky appearance, a bitter taste, or a sense of swift movement. And when you know where to look, these patterns crop up surprisingly often, allowing a monoglot English speaker to understand more Swahili or Japanese than you might imagine (see “Which sounds bigger?” at the bottom of this article). These cross-sensory connections may even open a window onto the first words ever uttered by our ancestors, giving us a glimpse of the earliest language and how it emerged.
Callooh! Callay!! We are delighted to announce that the LCSNA has just published a frabjous new book paying tribute to the late, great Martin Gardner–columnist, philosopher, polymath, magician, religious thinker, and author of more than 70 books, including the groundbreaking Annotated Alice.
The LCSNA’s beautiful 234-page hardcover is a delightful portmanteau accomplishment, combining entertaining and heartfelt reminiscences from those who knew Gardner with a traditional festschrift (academic essays written in his honor). The book is introduced by Gardner’s son Jim, and includes contributions from such noted authors as Douglas Hofstadter, Morton N. Cohen, Scott Kim, David Singmaster, Michael Patrick Hearn, Raymond Smullyan, and Robin Wilson, to name but a few. Our book also contains Gardner’s own final, post-”Definitive Edition” addenda to his towering Annotated Alice classic, as well as an authoritative bibliography of Gardner’s Carroll-related writings.
A Bouquet for the Gardener is a must-read for anyone who loves Lewis Carroll, puzzles, logic, math, and great thinking on a wide range of topics. Current members of the LCSNA will be mailed one free copy as a bonus of membership. We are thrilled to be able to make this important book available to the public as well via Amazon (US link; UK link). Members can also buy additional copies on Amazon.
Our thanks to all who contributed to this effort, both on the pages and behind the scenes. It is impossible to overstate the debt we all owe to Martin Gardner. We invite you to join us in saying thank you and in celebrating his remarkable life by reading A Bouquet for the Gardener.
How do you like front cover for the new paperback edition of Rethinking Maps: New Frontiers in Cartographic Theory? (Routledge, $44.95, greatly reduced from the $150.00 hardcover edition.) It pays homage to Henry Holiday’s famous “Ocean-Chart” illustration for Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876), pictured below. (We might add a second question, Doesn’t it ruin the concept of the “perfect and absolute blank” to put something in it?) The collection of essays, edited by Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchen, and Chris Perkins, features such groundbreaking articles as “Cartographic representation and the construction of lived worlds: understanding cartographic practice as embodied knowledge” by Amy D. Propen.
He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.
“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!
“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank:
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best —
A perfect and absolute blank!”
-Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark, Fit the Second
And here‘s Mahendra Singh’s illustration of the same passage, from his beautiful 2010 graphic novel edition ($14.95.) It was discussed in a previous blog post, Tingling Singh’s Bell.
Check out the summer 2011 Threepenny Review, out of Berkeley, California. There is an article by Argentinian author Alberto Manguel called “Return to Wonderland,” which is also online as a sample of the issue. Manguel is an expert on wonderous lands, having co-writen The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (1980), as well as The Library at Night (2007) and A History of Reading (1996). His essay is full of reverence for the history and literary excellence of the Alice books:
The Reverend Duckworth recalled the excursion precisely: “I rowedstroke and he rowed bow in the famous Long Vacation voyage to Godstow, when the three Miss Liddells were our passengers, and the story was actually composed and spoken over my shoulder for the benefit of Alice Liddell, who was acting as ‘cox’ of our gig. I remember turning round and saying, ‘Dodgson, is this an extempore romance of yours?’ And he replied, ‘Yes, I’m inventing as we go along.’”
Inventing Alice’s adventures “as we go along”: the truth is unbelievable. That Alice’s fall and explorations, her encounters and her discoveries, the syllogisms and puns and wise jokes, should, in all their fantastic and coherent development, have been made up then and there, in the telling, seems almost impossible. Osip Mandelstam, commenting on the composition of Dante’s Commedia (another dreamlike journey of exploration), says that it is naive of readers to believe that the text they have in front of them was born full-fledged from the poet’s brow, without a long mess of drafts and trials in its wake. No literary composition, says Mandelstam, is the fruit of an instant of inspiration: it is an arduous process of trial and error, helped along by experienced craft. But in the case of Alice we know it wasn’t so: precisely such an impossibility seems to have been the case. No doubt Carroll, in the back of his mind, had previously composed many of the jokes and puns that pepper the story, since he loved puzzles and word games, and spent much of his time inventing them for his pleasure and that of his child friends. But a bagful of tricks is not enough to explain the strict logic and joyful avatars that govern the perfectly rounded plot.
The Threepenny Review can be ordered here.
The Mad Tea Party, from Arthur Rackham's 1907 illustrations for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Arthur Rackham illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1907. Our friends over at the Arthur Rackham Society have a few articles about Carroll in the April 2011 issue, No. 45, of the Journal of the Arthur Rackham Society (JARS.)
1) “Rackham’s Mice and a Few Rats – Part 5” by Dorothy Gibbs, pp. 6-8. Covers Rackham’s Pool of Tears, Caucus Race and Trial Scene.
2) “Illustrators of Alice” by Chris Tomaszewski, pp. 18-25, reprinted from the Jan. 2008 Newsletter of Stella and Rose’s Books; 23 illustrations.
I believe you have to be a member of the society to get the Journal, and membership is $20 a year for Americans.
Lynne Truss, author of the best-selling grammar-romp Eats, Shoots and Leaves, recently appeared on the BBC Radio 4 program “Great Lives” to discuss her fascination with Lewis Carroll. You can listen to the half-hour program at leisure on the BBC iPlayer.
Interviewed by British author Matthew Parris, Truss discusses her life-long fondness for Lewis Carroll – fondness that led her to include him as a character in her 2010 novel Tennyson’s Gift. The interview also features Robin Wilson, author of Lewis Carroll in Numberland and together the trio address questions such as “Dodgson the Mathematician: Was he any good?”. They also do a good-spirited rendition of Alice being introduced to the banquet in Through the Looking-Glass. Matthew Parris plays the pudding.
Any 6-year-old girl obsessed with Disney Princess merchandise will tell you that Alice was not one of the princesses (‘princi‘?). However, it turns out a real princess seems to have been interested in Alice. At the center of the media spotlight right now is Prince William’s royal fiancée Kate Middleton, to be wed in a few short weeks, and guess what? She did her thesis on Lewis Carroll. The Daily Kate, a blog about a breadth and depth of topics as long as that topic is related to Kate Middleton, posted in June 2009 “Kate’s Lewis Carroll Dissertation Revealed.”
Posters on the internet have been circulating links to the title of Kate Middleton’s university dissertation in recent days. The topic of Kate Middleton’s project should shock no one who knows of her interest in art history and photography: it was a study of the photographic representations of childhood created by Lewis Carroll, author of the famous Alice in Wonderland books.
The website of the School of Art History at the University of St. Andrews lists an honors dissertation by Catherine Middleton, titled “‘Angels from Heaven’: Lewis Carroll’s Photographic Interpretation of Childhood.” Kate completed the paper as a part of her master’s program in art history at the university.
The dissertation topic fits well with what we’ve learned about Kate’s interest in photography over the years. Her work with her parents’ Party Pieces company includes photographing stock for the company’s catalogue and website. She also helped to host a photography exhibition of Alastair Morrison’s work to benefit UNICEF while still living in London; both Prince William and Laura Lopes, daughter of The Duchess of Cornwall, were attendees at that function.
Kate’s interest in art and photography, I hope, will bode well for her future patronage of and work with the heritage of British arts should she and William marry.
I don’t believe the text of the dissertation is out in public, which is well and good. (It’s listed on the St. Andrew’s website here.) Her thesis topic has also been mentioned recently in a Newsweek and Daily Beast article called “Citizen Kate,” if you want to read more about her. If you’re apathetic to tabloid subjects, this may seem more or less irrelevant to anything, but it is nice that the likely future Queen has good taste.
Simon Winchester, author of the excellent book The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, is back with a book about Lewis Carroll and the Liddell family called The Alice Behind Wonderland. The new book uses Carroll’s famous 1958 photograph of Alice as a beggar-girl as a launching point for the discussion. Former director of New York’s Morgan Museum and Library, Charles E. Piece, Jr., reviewed it in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago:
To my surprise, Mr. Winchester does not appear much interested in the influence that Alice Liddell might have had on Dodgson’s creation of the heroine of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and, six years later, “Through the Looking-Glass.” He simply relates the well-known story of how Dodgson took the Liddell girls on a picnic on July 4, 1862, during which he told them the tale of a little girl who had fallen down a rabbit hole. Alice, captivated by the tale, made Dodgson promise to write the story down and give it to her as a gift. In November 1864, he fulfilled that promise.
Mr. Winchester instead focuses on the odd estrangement between the Liddell family and Dodgson in the late 1860s, a breach that has remained largely unexplained. The most dramatic fact is that Dodgson and Liddell never saw each other again after he took the 18-year-old’s photograph in 1870.
The rest of that review is here. Simon Winchester’s The Alice Behind Wonderland was released March 17th with a hardcover price of $16.95.