New Yorker Article On Robert Frost Includes Quote on Alice

Duchess and Alice WalkingHere’s a tidbit from one of our mimsy minions:

In the current Feb 10 issue of The New Yorker, within a long article on Robert Frost, there is a quote from his letter from England, July 4, 1913: “…Now it is possible to have sense without the sounds of sense (as in much prose that is supposed to pass muster but makes very dull reading) and the sound of sense without sense (as is Alice in Wonderland which makes anything but dull reading.)…”

If you’d like to read the article on The New Yorker’s web site, click me.


Alice’s Wonderland in the New Yorker

“Alice’s Wonderland” is the perfect title for Rebecca Mead’s article in the June 17 issue of The New Yorker, (the full text of which is only available in the print edition or to subscribers.) The article is about WalMart founder Sam Walton’s daughter, Alice Walton, who has built a wonderland of an art museum in the Ozarks.

We also just noticed another great Carroll reference in the May 16 issue. In Anthony Lane’s wonderful profile of Pixar Animation Studios, The Fun Factory, he muses about the unreality of their digital methods:

What needs to be emphasized is that none of this exists. [...]
But there are no lenses, or none that you can hold in your palm. They are purely options on a toolbar, and you scroll between them. To someone from the outside world, we must have sounded like Alice and the White King, talking about an empty road. “To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too!” the King remarks.

UPDATE: If you didn’t see the comment below, Ann Buki found even more:

There is another reference to Alice in the June 13th & 20th New Yorker. It is in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Trading Stories: Notes from an Apprenticeship. This is on page 80: “Like the labels on the cakes and bottles that Alice discovered underground, the essential gift of my award was that it spoke to me in the imperative; for the first time, a voice in my head said, ‘Do this.’”



More of The New Yorker’s photos of The Alice-in-Wonderland Follies

New York Theatre Ballet's Alice-in-Wonderland Follies, photographed by the New Yorker's Julieta Cervantes

You might have noticed the above photo in the The New Yorker Magazine, April 11th, as the large image starting the Goings On About Town section. The picture was taken by Julieta Cervantes, a shot from New York Theatre Ballet’s Alice-in-Wonderland Follies, which ran April 8-9 at Florence Gould Hall.  The New Yorker’s listing included a short review on pg. 11 which mentioned the recent plague of Alice ballets:

Alice is all the rage these days; just last month, both the Royal Ballet in London and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet put on major new productions. New York Theatre Ballet’s staging may not be the most lavish or the most recent (it was created in 2001), but it is not without its charms. Conceived as a ballet for children, it tells the story in a vaudeville style, with a touch of soft-shoe, a soupçon of burlesque, and a just smattering of dancing on pointe—by Alice, of course. The production is witty, clever, and blessedly brief. Gillian Bradshaw-Smith’s set designs were inspired by New York’s Palace Theatre, circa 1913, and the costumes, by Sylvia Nolan (Metropolitan Opera), are imaginative and lovely.

What New Yorker Magazine would be complete without the word ‘soupçon?’ Their blog Photo Booth includes four more of Cervantes’ lovely photos from the Follies, including these two:

New York Theatre Ballet's Alice-in-Wonderland Follies, photographed by the New Yorker's Julieta Cervantes


Tingling Singh’s Bell

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

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

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”

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.


Don’t worry, it’s just a phase he’s going through

Rebecca Mead’s article about the play Gatz, in the September 27th, 2010, issue of The New Yorker, had a nice parenthetical quip in re Alice adaptations:

[John] Collins [founder of Elevator Repair Service theatre company], who is courtly and subdued in nammer, had directed productions as an undergraduate: his first full-length show, “The Real Mary Ann,” was based on “Alice in Wonderland” and was performed in the basement of Pierson College. (“Every experimental director has to go through an “Alice in Wonderland” thing, and John was very lucky to have gotten his out very early,” James Hannaham, a novelist and journalist who was an early member of the company, says.)

Another talented young thespian currently scratching that itch is Yale University’s Oren Stevens, class of 2011. As reported in the Yale Daily News last week:

Starting October 7 to 9, Stevens — a longtime participant in the Yale Dramat with more than a dozen credits under his belt — will be seeing his piece, “Phantomwise,” be produced on the stage of the legendary Yale Repertory Theatre. The play is an official Dramat production and is the second student-written play to get the Dramat’s support in recent memory, after George’s “Commandments” was produced last spring.

“Phantomwise” follows the story of Alice Liddell, the English beauty who was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The play weaves together the true story of Liddell’s life with the children’s classic tale, traveling between fantasy and reality.

If you know of (or attend) Carroll-themed performances: let us know!


Lang Lang galumphs

Jabberwock puppet by Sarah Snowden

No need to report every time a Jabberwocky word is used somewhere, but this was a good one. Alex Ross, The New Yorker‘s classical music critic (and author of the excellent musical/political history of the 20th century The Rest Is Noise), in the middle of complaining about the flood of anniversary-year Chopin recordings, describes a showy pianist’s contribution thus:

Lang Lang, the other big Chinese virtuoso, galumphs through the two piano concertos on [Deutsche Grammophon].

Whether Ross means it in the sense of moving “heavily or clumsily” (Wiktionary) or in the more Carrollian sense of triumphant galloping, is up for interpretation. LCSNA blog followers, keep watching for interesting modern uses of Carroll coinages!


Dodgson “perched in the middle” of the “two chunks” in the history of voting math

Lewis Carroll and the Liddell family made the July 26th 2010 issue of the New Yorker in reference to his work on election mathematics. Anthony Gottlieb, in his article in the book review department called “Win or Lose: No voting system is flawless. But some are less democratic than others“, gives Dodgson praise for considering voting systems that are more fair than, for instance, the U.S.’s current winner-take-all method.

The history of voting math comes mainly in two chunks: the period of the French Revolution, when some members of France’s Academy of Sciences tried to deduce a rational way of conducting elections, and the nineteen-fifties onward, when economists and game theorists set out to show that this was impossible. Perched in the middle is the Reverend Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass.”


National politics weren’t on Dodgson’s mind, it appears, when he first became interested in the theory of voting, in the early eighteen-seventies. Ostensibly, he was pondering the best way for the governing body of Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a tutor in mathematics, to decide on the design for a controversial belfry, and to pick new members of the college. As to what explained his sudden interest in college politics, some people—notably the late economist and Dodgson scholar Duncan Black—have suggested that Alice Liddell, who inspired the Wonderland tale, in 1862, was at the bottom of it. Alice’s father, the head of Christ Church, had forbidden Dodgson further contact with his daughters, and meddling in college politics may have been Dodgson’s way of getting back at him.

The whole article is pretty interesting, and concludes that one of the fairest methods of voting might be similar to how people regularly rank favorites on internet sites like Yelp (“Approval Voting”).