While not impossible (Dodgson didn’t die till after the advent of sound recording), I was skeptical when this blog 22 Words claimed to have a recording of “Lewis Carroll reading ‘Jabberwocky.'” But I see they updated it with the comment “Oops! Sorry…This isn’t Lewis Carroll reading. Not sure how I made that mistake…” I can guess how they made the mistake: they had embedded the sound only from this strange YouTube animation. Its creator, Jim Clark, explains himself thusly: “Here is a virtual movie of Lewis Carroll reading his much loved poem Jabberwocky. The poem is read superbly by Justin Brett.”
There’s no known voice recordings of Carroll are there?
Mahendra Singh’s beautiful new graphic novel version of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark got a Christmasy plug in The New Yorker’s blog Book Bench, in a post called “Holiday Gift Guide: For the Precocious Child.” “…Illustrated with delightfully surreal (and somewhat macabre) drawings,” writes Eileen Reynolds. “The language isn’t easy, of course, so save this book for the brightest and most adventurous young word-worms on your holiday shopping list.”
Over at Melville House’s blog MobyLives, Singh wrote a short essay about his creative process when approaching the illustration of the Bellman’s blank map. The original post is here, and I’ll quote in full:
A panel from Singh’s adaptation
The infamous Blank Map of the Bellman is proof positive that there was no Bellwoman forcing the Bellman to stop and ask for directions. It’s also a classic example of Carroll’s subversive sense of fun in the entire Snark.
The original illustrator of the poem, Henry Holiday, simply drew a blank map for this scene, a zen-like decision which really complicated my life when I set about drawing this panel.
Outsmarting Holiday would not be easy, but I had two advantages working for me in my quest to draw that celebrated blankness. First, this was going to be the world’s first, genuinely full-scale Surrealist Snark. Second, I am a shameless borrower of things which don’t belong to me.
Both the Snark and Surrealism involve a lot horsing around with the exact meanings of words and pictures, with interchanging them, combining them, sometimes even making their entire meaning softly and silently vanish away.
Henry Holiday’s Map of the Bellman
The Belgian Surrealist, Rene Magritte, was obsessed with this sort of game and his painting, “The Lover”, makes a perfect comment upon the Bellman’s Map. So, I just took it. Shameless on my part, yes, but there’s even more of that to come.
The map’s legend, “you are here” is literally true but what’s really shameless is my insistence that French is the language of the lost and confused when everyone knows that it’s really English. This is easily verified. Stand on a street corner in any big francophone city and ask a stranger: where am I? If necessary, pull at shirtsleeves and wave your arms, speak very slowly while carefully pronouncing every word at the utmost decibel level. I think you’ll quickly see what I mean.
Words, words, words! If only they had the decency to cover themselves up, like the Bellman & Company. They have no loyalty, they can’t be bothered to mean anything anymore, they’re shameless!
Rene Magritte’s “The Lovers”
Singh’s Snark is for sale on Amazon here, and more on The Hunting of the Snark around our website here.
‘The Nursery Alice’ was first printed in 1889 but Carroll didn’t like the pictures, ‘too bright and gaugy’, some sheets were sent to America and some were used for the People’s Edition in 1891. The book below is the Second but first published edition dated 1890. 10.000 copie were printed but sales were slow so some became the 2nd people’s edition.
There is Thingumbob shouting! Mahendra Singh’s beautiful new illustrated version of The Hunting of the Snark is being released tomorrow, Tuesday, November 2nd (and we refuse to make any Election Day analogies) from Melville House Publishing. You can still pre-order it today for $10.08 on Amazon with free shipping (where it’s listed as a “graphic novel,” although where is the line between a graphic novel and a book with many, many pictures and conversations?) Singh, an LCSNA member and an editor of the Knight Letter, has been blogging about the creative process of this book for years with tons of sneak-peaks of the art at justtheplaceforasnark.
In 1879, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson–a.k.a. Lewis Carroll–published the classic “nonsense” poem, The Hunting of the Snark. Though often outshined by Carroll’s prose works like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Snark is beloved by Carroll fans and has been adapted in numerous iterations since it was originally published.
In November, Melville House is publishing the latest iteration, a lovely new graphic novel edition of The Hunting of the Snark, illustrated by the artist Mahendra Singh. (Singh has been blogging about the process of adapting this famous work over at justtheplaceforasnark–I encourage anyone who considers themselves aficionados of Carroll or graphic novels to check it out. His commentary about the process is incredibly fun and often brilliant.)
When you’re publishing something that’s already so well known, there’s no shortage of adaptations and interpretations out there. Each tends to say something not just about the original work, but about the time and place it was adapted. Yesterday I found this wonderful audio clip of Boris Karloff doing a reading of Snark. It’s lovely to hear Karloff’s eloquent rendering, to let it take you back to his time as he ruminates on Carroll’s playful language, and get wrapped up in all the “nonsense”…
Over at the blog Booktryst: A Nest for Book Letters, Stephen J. Gertz has posted most of the text of Carroll’s pamphlet “Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter Writing,” with some commentary about its relevance 120 years later. The original pamphlet “was very popular, going into five editions 1890-1897.” Mr Gertz says:
The Net has been compromised; it’s lights out for email. Time to get out a piece of stationary, a pen, and write an old-fashioned letter. But how? What’s a 21st century citizen to do? Ask Mr. Dodgson!
We are big fans of Alicenations, one of several blogs of the Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil managed by Adriana Peliano. The site regularly features original and experimental music, video, and illustrations created by Adriana, together with her husband Paulo Beto, and inspired by the Alice books.
Here’s a recent creation which began life as a damaged Disney LP:
Many years ago I found a Disney Alice Record completely warped. I suddenly began to play with its stutter sounds, noises, voices and echoes, creating and recording a musical puzzle. The result is a funny game of words, a collage with dislocated meanings. My actual husband, Paulo Beto, boyfriend at that time, who is an amazing electronic music composer, recreated the material, remixing the jumping sounds.
The video below (a work in progress) makes use of some of the resulting music. Visit Alicenations for further description of the project, and the opportunity to download mp3s.
Isabelle Melançon, creator of the new web comic Namesake, which has just launched, promises that Lewis Carroll, Alice, and many familiar fairy tale characters figure prominently in the story. From the web site:
“Namesake is the story of Emma Crewe, a woman who discovers she can visit other worlds. She finds out that these are places she already knows – fantasy and fairy lands made famous through the spoken word, literature and cinema. Her power as a Namesake forces her to act as a protagonist in these familiar stories as she figures out how to get home. But as she travels, she discovers that those controlling her story have their own selfish goals in mind – and her fate is the key to everyone’s happy ending. Join Emma, her sister Elaine and their friends as they tumble down the rabbit hole. If you like, adventure, humor, stories of friendship, fairy tales and fantasy, this is the webcomic for you.”
Click the image on this post to visit the site. Since the comic will have new content three times a week, if you like what you see, you might want to subscribe to the site’s RSS feed to make sure you see the prologue and all subsequent pages.
A writer named Steve A Wiggins (“part-time Academic” & “failed priest” according to his bio) wonders on his blog Sects & Violence in the Ancient Worldabout screenwriter Linda Woolverton’s choice in naming the caterpillar the biblical name Absalom:
Supposing this to be nothing more than the reassignment of a fated biblical name associated with failed attempts at kingship, I simply let the reference pass. Until the chrysalis scene. There he was, Absalom hanging from a plant, just like David’s son swayed from a tree according to 2 Samuel. This mysterious scene in the battle of Ephraim Forest had captured my attention before when I wrote an article on Absalom, eventually published in the Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages.
We’re tempted to chalk this one up to a bad case of Engrish mistranslation from our friends across the Pacific. It’s easy to see how “Wonderland” could have been misread as “Waterland,” and the “Mad Hatter” may have been literally interpreted as “Angry Hat.”
In any case, how we are supposed to believe that they’re pouring a cup of tea underwater? How the hell are you going to drink it? Could they have made a more disturbing Alice in Wonderland cover?
I think all LCSNA members will know the answer to that last question.
When our cousins the Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil held their first “Alice Day” in May this year, one of the main events was the live performance of a new soundtrack to the silent Alice in Wonderland (1903). The music was composed by Paulo Beto and performed by the band Frame Circus on keyboards, cello, percussion and Theremin.
Thank you to Adriana Peliano for sending us news of the event. Adriana tends Alicenations, the blog of the Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil. The above video featured in her Alice Day blog post, along with another soundtrack by Frame Circus, and a video of Leon Theremin playing his own instrument.