from John Vernon Lord's illustrations for Through the Looking Glass, Artists' Choice Editions
"A Wasp in a Wig," from John Vernon Lord's Illustrations for Through the Looking Glass, Artists' Choice Editions
Here’s a beautiful new limited-edition Through the Looking Glass, released by Artists’ Choice Editions in London. Illustrated by John Vernon Lord! With a forward by Selwyn Goodacre! “Looking-Glass is a brilliant sequel – it is not a return of Wonderland but rather a more satisfying further adventure.” 320 standard copies, signed and numbered, are selling for £98. Ninety-eight very Special Copies, leather-bound, with a special booklet called “Lords’ List” and other goodies, costs £320. Their website also lists Lord’s illustrated Alice in Wonderland (sold out!) his The Hunting of the Snark (still available for £68), and some other Carroll books from Artists’ Choice.
from John Vernon Lord's illustrations for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Artists' Choice Editions
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.
I wasn’t expecting postmodern philosophy when I opened the New York Times Opinionator blog this week, but there was filmmaker Errol Morris rambling on about truth, relativity, Jorge Luis Borges and Humpty Dumpty. It appears to be the fourth of a five-part series called “The Ashtray,” no doubt what he was staring into when he starting questioning existence and art. Part Four, “The Author of the Quixote,” is named after Borges’ story about Pierre Menard, a 20th century Frenchman who wrote a book called “Don Quixote,” which has the identical text to Cervantes’ book of the same name. Borges’ book review of it complains that Menard’s 17th Century Spanish seems affected, unlike Cervantes. Read the whole Morris essay here, which drags in a long quote from Through the Looking Glass. “…It addresses the issue: can words mean anything we want them to?” asks Morris. “Humpty-Dumpty is suggesting an ‘authoritarian’ theory of meaning. Words mean whatever I want them to mean. It is easy to see it as an earlier version of ‘The Ashtray Argument.'”
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert‘s march on Washington, D.C., yesterday, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, was estimated to be about 250,000 sane people strong (approximately triple the headcount at Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally in August, which yesterday’s event was parodying.) Stewart requested attendees to bring pro-sanity signs, and suggested for example “I Disagree With You, But I’m Pretty Sure You’re Not Hitler” and “I am not afraid of Muslims / Tea Partiers / Socialists / Immigrants / Gun Owners / Gays … But I Am Scared of Spiders.”
The Huffington Post did a nice job supplying slide shows of hundreds of suggestions and photos from the rally yesterday. I just went through them looking for a few good Lewis Carroll-inspired ones:
UPDATE! Here’s two more that another LCSNA member found at BuzzFeed’s 100 Best Signs at the Rally to Restore &c…
This essay by Joyce Carol Oates, “In the Absence of Mentors/Monsters: Notes on Writerly Influences,” was actually published in Narrative Magazine in Fall 2009, but it’s now available online at the Huffington Post. Read this whole essay here, and I’ve excerpted a few relevant passages:
Early Influences. Often it’s said that the only influences that matter greatly to us come early in our lives, and I think that this must be so. Of the thousands–tens of thousands?–of books I’ve probably read, in part or entirely, many of which have surely exerted some very real influence on my writing life, only a few shimmer with a sort of supernatural significance, like the brightest stars in the firmament: Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden,” and “The Gold Bug and Other Tales” by Edgar Allan Poe–the great books of my childhood.
Most of the children’s storybooks and young-adult novels my grandmother gave me have faded from my memory, like the festive holiday occasions themselves. The great single–singular–book of my childhood, if not of my entire life, is “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” which my grandmother gave me when I was eight years old, and which, with full-page illustrations by John Tenniel, in a slightly oversized edition with a transparent plastic cover, exerted a powerful influence on my susceptible child’s imagination, a kind of hypnotic spell that lasted for years.
Here is my springboard into the imagination! Here is my model of what a storybook can be.
I was too young for such exalted thoughts, of course. Far too young even to grasp that the name stamped on the spine of the book–Lewis Carroll–was the author’s name, still less that it was the author’s pen name. (Many years would pass before I became aware that the author of the “Alice” books was an Oxford mathematician named Charles Dodgson, an eccentric bachelor with a predilection for telling fantastical stories to the young daughters of his Oxford colleagues and photographing them in suggestive and seductive poses evocative of Humbert Humbert’s nymphets of a later, less innocent era.) My enchantment with this gift began with the book itself as a physical and aesthetic object, quite unlike anything else in our household: both Alice books were published in a single volume under the imprint Illustrated Junior Library, Grosset & Dunlap (1946). Immediately, the striking illustrations by John Tenniel entered my imagination, ranged across the field of the book’s cover–back and front–in a dreamlike assemblage of phantasmagoric figures as in a somewhat less malevolent landscape by Hieronymus Bosch. (I still have this book. It is one of the precious possessions in my library. What a surprise to discover that the book that loomed so large in my childhood imagination is only slightly larger than an ordinary book.)
The appeal of “Alice” and her bizarre adventures to an eight-year-old girl in a farming community in upstate New York is obvious. Initially, the little-girl reader is likely to be struck by the fact that the story’s heroine is a girl of her own approximate age who confronts extraordinary adventures with admirable equanimity, common sense, and courage. (We know that Alice isn’t much more than eight years old because Humpty Dumpty says slyly to her that she might have “left off” at seven–meaning, Alice might have died at seven.) Like most children, Alice talks to herself–but not in the silly prattling way of most children: “ ’Come, there’s no use in crying like that!’ said Alice to herself rather sharply; ‘I advise you to leave off this minute!’ ” (Obviously, Alice is echoing adult admonitions–she has interiorized the stoicism of her elders.) Instead of being alarmed or terrified, as a normal child would be, Alice marvels, “Curiouser and curiouser!”–as if the world so fraught with shape-changing and threats of dissolution and even, frequently, cannibalism were nothing more than a puzzle to be solved or a game to be played like croquet, cards, or chess. (Alice discovers that the Looking-Glass world is a continual game of chess in which, by pressing forward, and not backing down in her confrontations with Looking-Glass inhabitants, she will become Queen Alice–though it isn’t a very comfortable state pinioned between two elderly snoring queens.) The “Alice” books are gold mines of aphoristic instruction: “Who cares for you? . . . You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” Alice cries fearlessly, nullifying the authority of malevolent adults as, at the harrowing conclusion of “Looking-Glass,” she confronts the taboo-fact of “cannibalism” at the heart of civilization… [Continue reading here.]
And the winner of the 2009 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award is…
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll
Illustrated by Oleg Lipchenko
Horray for Oleg!
“…Oleg Lipchenko has turned this classic story into a rich expression for both the youngest reader greeting Alice for the first time and those who remember reading the original Alice as children…Lipchenko’s illustrations are more than images on a page, they are a homage to the surreality and humour of Carroll’s text as well as a meticulously and brilliantly constructed vision of a longstanding tradition in children’s literature.” – Jury’s comments
The prize is awarded by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY):
THE ELIZABETH Mrazik-Cleaver Award was established in 1985 following the death of Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver, one of Canada’s pre-eminent book illustrators. In her will, Cleaver left a fund of $10,000 dollars for an award to be given annually in recognition of outstanding artistic talent in a Canadian picture book. The recipient receives a cheque for $1,000 dollars and a certificate.
The Cleaver Award is administered by a committee of three members of the Canadian section of the International Board on Books for Young People. The recipient is a Canadian illustrator of a picture book published in Canada in English or French during the previous calendar year. To be eligible, the book must be a first edition and contain original illustrations. All genres are considered: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, folk and fairy tales.
This is the first time an edition of work by Lewis Carroll has won the prize.
In addition to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Oleg has illustrated Humpty Dumpty and Others: Selected Nursery Rhymes and a number of Russian children’s tales. Many of these illustrations can be viewed on his website.
Even though it was Humpty Dumpty who first proposed the observance of unbirthdays, it is now of course often associated with Mad Tea Parties. For the crafty: Very Merry Unbirthday Cards and Card Kits sell two craft kits for making “Alice in Wonderland” and “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” themed greetings cards, and other card-making products. That site also links to MadHatterStamps.com which in 2010 is celebrating Alice for obvious reasons. Both the cards and the stamps are from the classic Tenniel illustrations.
“You Don’t Need a Reason to Send an Unbirthday Card”
At the LCSNA Spring Meeting in 2008, Oleg Lipchenko, artist, illustrator and LCSNA member, described the challenges of illustrating Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland anew. “It’s like illustrating “IT.” You know what “IT” means, right?”
Several of you were lucky enough to be able to get hold of pre-publication editions and your reviews were delighted. Now the Oleg’s rich and intricate illustrations are available to all:
I’m glad to inform you all that a new edition of Alice with my illustrations published by Tundra Books is available in bookstores:
I am grateful to all of you who purchased a copy of the Limited Edition and helped me to move ahead with my illustrations. My next my book will be published by Tundra Books in 2010. It is Humpty Dumpty And Friends. Still several copies of the Limited Edition of Alice (Studio Treasure) are available at: www.surrealice.com
Oleg Lipchenko, artist, illustrator
Lewis Carroll was not mentioned by name, nor was the word ‘portmanteau’ ever dropped, but Humpty Dumpty’s spirit lurked around the September 13th, 2009, episode of This American Life (#389 Frenemies). Starting at 29:45 in the episode, Ira Glass interviews lexicographer Erin McKean, whom he had asked to research the word ‘frenemy’. She found the first attempted coinage by gossip columnist Walter Winchell in 1953, who wrote “how’s about calling the Russians our ‘frenemies’?”, although the word didn’t really take off till decades later.
Their conversation, transcribed, starting at 32:00 in the episode:
Glass: Wait, are there other words like this, where they sound alike, and then they get smashed together into one word?
McKean: Oh, it happens, like, all the time. I mean, think, there’s, like ‘guesstimate’, right? And that’s from 1936.
Glass: Do you have another one?
McKean: I love this one, and people say this one all the time with a little thrill of thinking they’re the first person ever to say it: You know, that someone is entering their ‘anecdotage.’
Glass: I’ve never heard that. So you get old, and then you start telling your anecdotes, and that’s it?
McKean: Right, and I think the central part, is that you start telling the same anecdotes over and over again.
Glass: Right. You got another one?
McKean: Lots of people think that they are the first person to create the word ‘linner’.
McKean: Linner is that meal you must have between lunch and dinner.
Glass: That just makes me feel mad at somebody, hearing that…
(They go on to discuss the word ‘slanguage’ and lexical gaps.) The lexicographer and the radio host condescend a bit to these enthusiastic amateur wordsmiths, but they’re far from being the first people to think they’ve coined a clever portmanteau. Mark Burstein quotes from James Atherton’s The Books at the Wake, when he discusses the creation and later development of word-smashing techniques from Carroll to Finnegans Wake:
It must have astonished [James] Joyce, that avant-garde innovator, proud of his Irish nationality, contemptuous of the Church of England, and confident of his own originality, to find that he had been forestalled in so many of his discoveries by a mid-Victorian Englishman in minor Anglican orders.
Of course, Humpty Dumpty doesn’t claim to have invented the practice, nor any of the portmanteaus of which he is the master. And back to Ira Glass, it’s a shame they didn’t get into the history of “smashing together” words, but it’s interesting to learn that part of a lexicographer’s job is to let people down when they learn they didn’t invent words like ‘anecdotage’.
Who knew Alice and Humpty Dumpty were on Mars!? They are some of the recently named targets within view of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander stationed in the Martian arctic. (Click on the picture for a better view.)
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona