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Posts Tagged ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Nonsense Verse

October 5, 2015 | by

West Frisian Alice.

“A language is not complete if there are no translations of the Bible, Shakespeare, and Alice in Wonderland,” the translator Tiny Mulder wrote in 1962. Would that it were so easy! The Grolier Club’s current exhibition is called “Alice in a World of Wonderlands,” and its subject is Alice in Wonderland in translation, on the occasion of the book’s 150th anniversary. Like all the Grolier’s shows, it is free to the public. And at 140 translations—and a bevy of very different Alices—it’s well worth a visit. 

There are Braille editions and Frisian editions and Pakistani editions. We see Alice’s adventures rendered in Farsi, in Uyghur, in Hebrew, and in Jèrriais, a Norman language spoken in some of the Channel Islands. Naturally, Carroll’s own Nyctographic language (invented for Alice) is represented, too. Read More »

Who Does This Alice Think She Is, Anyway? and Other News

June 11, 2015 | by

An illustration by John Tenniel for The Nursery “Alice,” 1890.

  • Alice, of Wonderland fame, has osmosed right on into the culture and found a life of her own; we no longer need to read Lewis Carroll’s books to feel that we know her. But we should read Carroll—there’s a certain amount of drift between his Wonderland and the one we think we understand. “Conversations about what is real, what is possible, and how rubbery the rules that govern such distinctions turn out to be abound in the tales of Alice. Yet they are sold as children’s books, and rightly so. A philosopher will ask how the identity of the self can be preserved amid the ceaseless flux of experience, but a child—especially a child who is growing so fast that she suddenly fills an entire room—will ask more urgently, as Alice does, ‘Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different.’ Children, viewed from one angle, are philosophy in motion.”
  • This Saturday marks Yeats’s sesquicentennial, an occasion celebrated easily enough by reading his poems—but why not read his plays, which are always given short shrift among his work? In a way, they anticipated Beckett: “What happens in a Yeats play can be startling. Purgatory, for example, verges on the lurid. Its material is the rough red wine of sex and violence: a woman’s lust for her groom and their son’s murderous determination to extirpate her sin in blood. Yeats’s genius is to distill that red wine into a fine but heady spirit, a short, incredibly potent theatrical essence that goes straight to both the head and the guts.”
  • Since Jerry Seinfeld declared, earlier this week, that he no longer plays college campuses because they’re “too P.C.”—such a taboo-buster, that Seinfeld, with his wry observations!—many have asked if comedy is in jeopardy. They often lean on the same tired rhetoric about laughter’s potential as a “unifying force”; why? “Comedy isn’t supposed to be anything, except what the comedian tries to make it—harmless, mean, political, dirty, dumb. You wouldn’t say that music or fiction are ‘supposed’ to be anything; so why do we saddle all comedy with a curative democratic mission? Too often we view comedy as a craft, a service brought to us by cheerful comfort-workers, more than the work of serious artists. Thus, when they don’t comfort us, we want to complain to the manager.”
  • “I can remember in the Fifties when Goatman would come by, up near Arab, Ala. The first time I ever saw him we were picking cotton in the fields near Arab and he was coming down the road. You could hear him coming a mile away with all the bells and all the pots and pans rattling. People would come by and say, ‘Goatman’s coming! Goatman’s coming!’ We’d all rush to the end of the cotton row to watch Goatman go by.” That’s Ansel Elkins, quoting her father in a new interview about her poems and the South.
  • Chinese publishers routinely censor their translations of Western books—and the West just as routinely greets this news with a small shrug. “As the anecdotal evidence started to accumulate, it became clear that though cuts tended to be surgically precise, they were also extremely common. Only rarely was there outrage. Many were fatigued by the idea of having to police all their overseas editions. With international publishing, they argued, something is always going to get lost in translation. Many had simply decided to not worry about it.”

Fear and Loathing in Wonderland

January 10, 2014 | by


From Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by Ralph Steadman, 1973. Via Brain Pickings.

Ralph Steadman’s febrile and slightly sinister take on Alice in Wonderland, published in 1973 and exhumed today by Brain Pickings, will make you think twice before using the phrase “Cheshire Cat grin.”



Down the Rabbit Hole

January 28, 2013 | by

However complicated Lewis Carroll’s legacy (he turned 151 yesterday), nobody can dispute its role in popular culture. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has spawned more than twenty adaptations, not counting those works inspired by the 1865 classic. The following, from 1903, is the first: it stars one May Clark, and features some fairly nifty special effects.



September 8, 2011 | by

Mervyn Peake in Germany, 1945.

I first encountered Mervyn Peake, as most readers do, through his baroque Gormenghast trilogy. At the time, I was stuck in the purgatorial antechamber between adolescence and maturity, reluctant to abandon certain habits of mind but keen to develop the imaginative sophistication that I thought might come in handy in college. So the BBC’s television dramatization of what they promised would be a darker alternative to Tolkien had its appeal. As it turned out, the BBC only adapted the first two Gormenghast novels, and then only cartoonishly. But my curiosity was sufficiently stirred to seek out the trilogy.

Just over a decade later, the centenary of Peake’s birth presents us with the occasion to appreciate his abundant gifts as an illustrator (of, among other thing, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), novelist, poet, and writer of literary nonsense. On both sides of the Atlantic, there have been new illustrated editions of the Gormenghast novels and a new epilogue, Titus Awakes, has surfaced, written by Peake’s widow, Maeve Gilmore. In Britain, the celebrations have been understandably more elaborate. The British Library has mounted an exhibition to celebrate their recent acquisition of Peake’s archive, while the radio dramatist Brian Sibley has adapted the trilogy, with its new conclusion, for BBC Radio 4. Toward the end of July, I visited the exhibition and attended a panel discussion featuring a host of speakers, including Peake’s sons, Fabian and Sebastian. Read More »


Staff Picks: Alice Illuminated, the Pelé of iPads

August 6, 2010 | by

What we're reading this week.

After seeing Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, I’ve been looking through Lewis Carroll’s original text. The British Library has a copy of the 1864 illuminated manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, conveniently online. The illustrations are delicate and charming. They’re much like Carroll’s handwriting, neat and subtle, with no trace of the macabre imagery in Burton’s movie. Alice is worth returning to again and again. —Daisy Atterbury

Four middle-aged strangers, stranded late at night in a railroad station, begin speaking of love. Soon each is telling the story of his one great romance. It sounds like a lost work of Turgenev—and sometimes it reads that way too—but it’s My Kind of Girl, by the mid-century Bengali poet Buddhadeva Bose. First published in 1951, out next month in a new translation by Arunava Sinha. —Lorin Stein.

At the risk of stating the obvious, wasn’t that some piece about Gil Scott Heron? —L. S.

In the week that Newsweek was bought for a dollar, and Wikileaks dominated the news, I read up on the changing media landscape. I read John Koblin’s article in the New York Observer about Scott Dadich, executive editor of digital development at Condé Nast, with great interest. Dadich’s job is to help magazine editors develop their iPad applications. I’m fascinated by this new frontier, professionally and personally. Dadich is incredibly talented. In Koblin’s piece, he’s compared to Jesus, Pelé, Miles Davis, and Frank Lloyd Wright. —Caitlin Roper

Scavenged for all things Heidi Julavits after reading her story, "Multiples of Cohen," in the latest Harper's. —Anna Hartford

As a cyclist, I’ve been alarmed to learn from Republican electoral candidates that I am part of a vast biking conspiracy, started by the UN, to use bike lanes to take away people’s freedom. Meanwhile, back in the real world, I’ve started Ursula K LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, a story about a planet where gender roles are obscured, just in time for the California District Court’s decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. I picked up my copy, a classic early seventies hardcover edition with wonderfully strange modernist artwork, for fifty cents on somebody’s stoop near the office. —Patrick Loughran

What is an editor to do with a galley of the annotated edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? I have yet to find a fun way to feature the book on the Daily (suggestions are welcome). It’s more information than I’ll ever need. When is it the hunting season for partridges? Did you know that Epsom salts derive their name from the fact that they were originally made by boiling down mineral water from Epsom? Or that Frances Burney's first novel, Evelina (1778), was perhaps the first work to explore the notion of embarrassment? Is possible to overdose on Jane Austen? —Thessaly La Force

Also loved John Bowe’s piece in The New York Times Magazine about music copyright enforcers. Bowe delves into a facet of music copyright that I haven’t considered, and it’s a rough one—he follows a BMI licensing executive as she goes door-to-door to collect licensing fees for music that restaurants are already playing. The article gets at the question of how we feel about paying for music, a subject I never tire of. In June, I donated to Creative Commons after reading this letter from their creative director in response to ASCAP’s fundraising letter decrying what they characterized as efforts to “undermine” their copyrights. —C. R.