Amid all the fireworks, flag-waving, and hot dog eating, another anniversary celebration is taking place today. 150 years ago this very afternoon, Lewis Carroll first extemporized the story of Alice’s adventures to three little girls in a rowing boat. Could we argue this event had cultural implications on a par with the Declaration of Independence itself? I think we could.
In celebration of the milestone, Oxford’s annual Alice’s Day, coordinated by the Oxford Story Museum, will be bigger than ever before and for the first time will include a raucous caucus race in Christ Church Meadow. Tish Francis, co-director of the museum, spoke about the event in Oxford Mail: “It is going to be wonderful, holding the race on a field overlooked by the windows of Christ Church, where Alice Liddell would have sat and looked out. We have got singers, dancers, circus performers. In the words of the Dodo, the best way to explain it is just to do it.” More on Alice’s Day and the Caucus Race can be read in C. M. Rubin’s article for the Huffington Post: Alice – - Join in the Race!
Ted Gioia, author and blogger, has commemorated the occasion in the post How Alice Got Into Wonderland in which he suggests that Carroll’s story may never have been meant just for children and asks “did a little-known Anglican
minister play a bigger role than the real-life Alice in the creation of this classic work?”
While Fourth of July celebrations may be taking center stage here in America, we hope that lovers of the Alice books will find their own ways to mark the day. (If you happen to be in Vallejo, California you could tip your hat to the Hatter as he drives by in their Fourth of July parade.) Here are some suggestions:
Take any opportunity to quote Alice. For example, if asked whether you like the potato salad, you could answer: “Thank you, it’s a very interesting dance to watch and I do so like that curious song about the whiting!”
Greet all newcomers to your local fireworks display with a languid “Who are you?” Refuse to be satisfied with their answer, whatever it is.
If you should happen to fall asleep at your family reunion, upon waking tell everybody all about your curious dream in which you chased a rabbit down a rabbit-hole, grew, shrunk, went for a swim, had a drink, kicked a lizard, et cetera, and ending up signing the Declaration of Independence.
If you have any more ideas, or news of other celebrations that are taking place, please tell us about them in the comments below.
September may be a whole summer away, but plans for LCSNA Fall 2012 Meeting are already coming together. Confirmed speakers include Adam Gopnik on Sylvie and Bruno and Robin Wilson, who wrote Lewis Carroll in Numberland. The meeting will take place on Saturday, September 29 at the Fales Library in New York University (home of the fabled Berol collection).
In the meantime be sure to check out two Lewis Carroll book sales currently underway. Thanks to the generosity of some of our members both will benefit the Lewis Carroll Society of North America.
Alice in Wonderland (1947) by Ayres Houghtelling, egg tempera and gouache on board
Ayres Houghtelling’s groovy painting of Alice in Wonderland, intricately imagined with egg tempura and gouache on a surprisingly small board, will go up for auction at Sotheby’s on April 5th with an estimated price of $10k-$15k. It was described by blogger Kathy Hernandez thusly: “No picture has ever drawn me in like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Ayres Houghtelling (b. 1912). Alice is pictured at least 24 times in this [22" by 28"] print as she makes her way through all the major events of the book.” An LCSNA member tipped us off with this nice note: “Hello, I have a print of this original, it is a favorite and I just found out the original will be up for auction this week. A beautiful work from an artist (1940′s) who loved fantasy and Alice. Ayres was also famous for many things, one being the drawing out of the NYC subway plans.” Houghtelling died six years ago in 2006.
Full details for this year’s LCSNA Spring Meeting are now available online. Join us in Cambridge, Massachuettes for a weekend of Carrollian scholarship, conviviality, and a little magic.
The main meeting will be on Saturday, April 28 at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. Speakers include Selwyn Goodacre on the 150th anniversary of the boat ride during which Lewis Carroll told the Adventures to Alice Liddell and her sisters, with a review of the various editions of Alice’s Adventures under Ground. Following on this theme, Matt Demakos will discuss the evolution from Underground to the Wonderland. Mark Richards will enlighten us on the finer points of Carroll’s mathematically poetic work A Tangled Tale, and Alan Tannenbaum will tell us about A. B. Frost, the illustrator of A Tangled Tale and Rhyme? and Reason?. Linda Cassady will then talk about the exciting Wonderland Award at the University of Southern California, and show examples of the brilliant art it has inspired. Finally, Chris Morgan will demonstrate some of the magic practiced by Lewis Carroll. Other events include Friday’s Maxine Schaefer Reading for Children and a visit on Sunday to the Tannenbaum collection in nearby Chelmsford.
Download this pdf for the full program and for information on how to book meals and accommodation.
A science writer, a mathematician, and a professor of English walk into a library… no, it’s not an unpromising joke, it’s a very promising-sounding multidisciplinary event taking place in Los Angeles on February 22.
As part of Visions and Voices: the University of Southern California Arts and Humanities Initiative, three very different intellects will be discussing Wonderland and the Mathematical Imaginary. The trio consists of Australian science writer Margaret Wertheim, who you may have seen crocheting a coral reef during a TED lecture; Francis Bonahon, a professor of mathematics at the USC Dornsife College and a specialist in hyperbolic geometry and quantum topology; and Jim Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Chair in English at the USC Dornsife College and specialist in Victorian literature, culture, criminality, lunacy, and perversion.
The discussion will be held at the historic Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library and will be followed by an “experimental play/workshop” where, it is promised, “participants can make and play with absurd mathematical objects.” The event will run from 11am – 1pm and admission is free and open to the public.
The organizers are the same folks who run the Wonderland Award, an annual competition that encourages new scholarship and creative work related to Lewis Carroll. The deadline for entries this year is April 2 — we’ll be sure to remind you again closer to the time.
The Omaha World-Herald has reported some great news from Iowa where the national Poetry Out Loud competition at the Iowa School for the Deaf was won with a performance of Jabberwocky. First-time contestant Gabby Humlicek wowed the judges with her choice. “It was a really challenging poem to turn into American Sign Language,” Humlicek said. In rendering Carroll’s nonsense words Humlicek said it helped that “I’m a gregarious signer, and I practiced.” The newspaper reports that Gabby will go on to the state competition in De Moines this March – success there could lead to Washington D.C. and a bid for the national title. We wish her luck!
I couldn’t find an online video of Gabby’s performance, but for the curious I did manage to find another anonymous performance on YouTube. It’s fascinating to try and follow along with the poem. I am not sure what is happening 40 seconds in but I think it might be the frumious bandersnatch and, if so, it is pretty scary. It would be great if any readers of this blog who know ASL could offer us a commentary.
“A picnic” on legendary Totten Inlet at low tide in the dark and cold in the middle of the winter, and, if you are lucky, an icy gust of wind off the bay to season the experience — more than a little crazy, yes?
Crazy? Yes, but with impeccable literary credentials. Jon Rowley of Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, WA, is taking reservations for his annual nighttime oyster picnic, inspired by the Walrus and the Carpenter.
Beneath a sulkily shining moon, adventurous diners march up and down the oyster beds before eating each and every bivalve they fancy. Or as Rowley describes it, “Lantern light, freezing weather, plump, sweet oysters just rousted from their beds and opened on the spot, award-winning “oyster wines” drunk out of Reidel stemware, a bonfire — just the right mix of magic and madness.”
These pleasant walks will take place on December 21, January 7, and February 6. Reservations can be made online at Brown Paper Tickets.
Secret supper clubs are all the rage, so we’ve heard (we’ve never found one). Right now, somewhere in Vancouver, the Swallow Tail Supper Club is entertaining diners with fine food, cocktails, and live entertainment on a Wonderland theme. Local blogger Ariane Colenbrander seems to be in on the secret:
The evening starts at the outskirts of a moonlit forest, where guests are greeted by a frantic White Rabbit, who ushers them down the rabbit hole, to a nostalgic world of childhood fairytale characters. The Mad Hatter pours tea and soup is served in a “Drink Me” bottle labeled either “Big” or “Small”. The bottle guests drink from will determine their next course. More...
According to the same blog, celebrity chef and Food Network star Bob Blumer may also be involved, though it is not clear how. The supper club will be operating for only a few more days—they don’t seem to be sold out yet. Tickets cost $129 a head.
Alice and Steampunk both seem good ingredients to make a perfect Halloween haunted house. If you’re in New York City this week, there’s a spooky new Steampunk Haunted House at Abron’s Art Center on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, created by Third Rail Projects.
Following up on last year’s “Waking Nightmare,” this year, the critically acclaimed Third Rail Projects behind Steampunk borrows from author Lewis Carroll’s dark side for a show called “Through the Looking Glass.” But make no mistake; it’s not for children, and no one under 8 is admitted. The disclaimer warns that it’s “a frightening, immersive experience that winds through the theater and catacombs of the Abrons Playhouse … There will be fog effects, intense flashes of light, loud noises, lots of dust, soot, dripping pipes, churning gears, rusty metal, and other things that will hurt you if you touch them.”
The show starts on Saturday; tickets, which are available online, are $10 for students and $20 to $25 for adults, depending on the day of the week. There’s also a special Halloween party fundraiser for Third Rail on Oct. 26 that includes a cocktail reception and behind-the-scenes look at the project; those tickets are $50.
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.