27 May 2017
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Lewis Carroll certainly read that Victorian giant of literature, George Eliot (the pseudonym of Mary Anne Evans). His diary notes in 1858 that he began "Mr. Gilfil's love-story" from "Scenes of Clerical Life," although he doesn't say what he thought of it. After that, if he read anything more of her work, or noticed the mathematical references in it, we don't know about it.

So it doesn't seem as if her work grabbed him at the time. But, perhaps, if his shade is looking down on us, it would be interested to attend the next free Lewis Carroll Society talk which takes place next week on 2 June - and then perhaps paying Ms. Evans a call afterwards in Paradise to discuss it.

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(Yes, it's only a fanciful thought, but I like it.... )

In the talk, Derek Ball of Leicester University shares his work about Eliot's sometimes outrageous mathematical imagery, which he has found to be almost invariably associated with the tragicomedy in her novels.

The talk is free to attend, but if you want to come, please email secretary@lewiscarrollsociety.org.uk to say you will be coming so that they can get an idea of numbers. The talk will be held in the Gradidge Room of the Art Worker's Guild, which is a fascinating place in its own right, being one of the few unrestored Georgian houses in an 18th century Bloomsbury square, and full of the most beautiful work created by its members.

The Art Workers Guild is at 6 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AT and all LCS meetings are held at 6:30 for 7:00 pm. Just ring the doorbell.

24 May 2017
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"Alice" is well known in Russia, and there are now more than 30 Russian translations of Alice. Perhaps that is not too surprising, since Lewis Carroll's overland trip to Russia and back was the only foreign journey he ever took in his life, and he was entranced and fascinated by the Russia he explored in the late 1860s.

Carroll, as a mathematician, was also particularly fond of geometry. Now, picking up on both these themes, artist and anglophile Yuri Vashenko reveals some of the geometry latent but invisible in Tenniel's original drawings, as well as introducing his own, in a new exhibition in London#s Pushkin House. (see address and details below). It runs from 1 June to 10 July.
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Along with the exhibition the following events are taking place in June and July:

On 2nd June the artist Yuri Vashenko is in conversation with Liza Dimbleby.
On 16th June, in "Growing up in Wonderland" Daria Kulesh and Marina Osman explore the ambiguous wonderland of their Soviet childhood through song.
On 18th July (after the exhibition finishes) there is a talk by Kiera Vaclavik of Queen Mary college, on: 'Alice Grows Up: Russian Emigrees and the Making of a Style Icon'.

There will also be a screening of ‘Alice’ (1987) an animation masterpiece from the end of the Soviet Period by Polish filmmaker Jan Švankmajer.

Further details are to be confirmed.

Pushkin House is at:
5A Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2TA
Tel: 020 7269 9770

There are more details of these events on the Pushkin House website, which can be accessed here
12 May 2017
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A few weeks ago I went to see Alice's Adventures Underground, in the Vaults beneath London's Waterloo station. This promenade performance is a tidied up version of a show that was a smash hit in 2015 (see reviews here and here)

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This time round, some effort has been made to insert a plot - no easy task when the point of the performance is to make sure that you never have the same experience twice. Audiences of some 50-odd are cleverly split into groups of no more than 14, each weaving their way in a kind of intricate choreography through a maze of sets ranging from the Gardeners' potting shed (full of red paint, of course) to the Duchess's crazy kitchen, with much more besides - the Caterpillar's shisha lounge, for instance, or weedledum and Tweedledee flying overhead as alarmingly as any Monstrous Crow, while arguing all the time...

I found it hard to follow the plot, but it really didn't matter at all. The whole experience is pretty psychedelic, so it's best to go with the flow - or, turn on, tune in and drop out. As for Alice, she was hardly to be seen, except for a few glimpses in mirrors, and a dancing figure on a zoetrope, and an unexpected appearance at the very end, just before the entire trial scene shut itself up like a pack of cards.

It's a clever, amazing experience, best for those who are fairly active and reasonably sober (you wait in a bar beforehand, and emerge into a cocktail lounge/games room at the very end.) The surfaces are rough and constantly changing, there are flights of stairs and rubber floors and narrow, awkward tunnels. No photos are allowed during the performance - not that there is really time to take any - but here are some of the photos I took in the bar. I left out the ones of me playing flamingo croquet or downing cocktails!

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If you want to go, head over to this website and click the big green door. The little door leads to a different show aimed at kids - and that looks fun too. Tickets are from £39, a reasonable price for such an elaborate, immersive experience with such a multi talented cast.


23 March 2017
When I went to Japan last time, I gave a talk at a university there about Creative Responses to Alice. I intended to begin my talk with the following image

tattoo leg

It was literally hours before my talk when I realised that in Japan, there is a strong link between tattoos and crime. I am sure that many Japanese people are aware that in the west tattoos are now a fashion accessory, but still, I thought the image might give the wrong message, so I pulled it and replaced it with a more innocuous one.

And how I regretted not thinking of this before, as I struggled, in a hurry, to change my PowerPoint using a Japanese computer keyboard..... something I had never used before, and hope never to have to use again!



I thought of this when walking through Spitalfields market recently, and I spotted this (below) hanging on one of the stalls, and smiled at the memory.




10 March 2017


I was in the graphic novel/comic bookstore "GOSH" and saw "Alice in Comicland" - but for some reason I hadn't seen it before. It was published in 2014, in the USA, and I can hardly think it's taken that long to get over here... so either I'm just unobservant or else I've been looking in the wrong places.

Actually, I'd have thought it would have been in the bookstore of the Comic Museum when they did their fantastic "Alice in Cartoonland" show. If you want to read more about the background, this interview with compiler and comic historian Craig Yoe will fill you in on more of the details.

28 February 2017


A while ago I wrote about Cellophany's eight cello performance of Alice in Wonderland.

A recording of this piece, partnered with a version of The Wind in the Willows, and both narrated by Simon Callow, is now available with Colchester Classicsm price £12. There are further details here

08 February 2017


"Mad Hatter Tea" is a useful Alice related gift, (although as tea goes it is quite expensive). It's good quality tea, though, so I thought I'd pass on the news that they have a Facebook competition running till 10 February to win some Mad Hatter string-and-tag teabags, a pack of Café Wonderland 'Alice House' ground filter coffee, a packet of waffles and a Mad Hatter Tea mug. The link is here If you win, please let me know!
23 January 2017
I just heard from Mark Davis, (who runs excellent Alice river cruises in Oxford) and he sent me this press release.

NOTICE

OXFORD AUTHORS' AUCTION – Wednesday 8 February

A remarkable collection of Alice in Wonderland books and memorabilia, among the largest in the world, goes on sale in Oxford next month. The Oxford Authors Sale at Mallams on February 8 includes more than 3000 Alice items acquired across a 25-year collecting odyssey by the late Thomas Schuster and his wife Greta. 
Thomas E Schuster, who died in 2013, aged 76, was an international antiquarian books and prints dealer based in Maddox Street in Mayfair. His interest in English children’s literature were first ignited by a client in Japan and he became a recognised expert in the works of Kate Greenaway, Beatrix Potter and the Enid Blyton character Noddy. He published the Kate Greenaway catalogue raisonne in 1986.
But it was the Victorian writer, photographer and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, who proved a lasting passion for both Thomas Schuster and his wife. Buying at auction, at antique fairs at home and abroad, and through specialist dealers, Alice in Wonderland was the couple’s shared hobby for more than a quarter century.
Highlights from the massive collection (to be sold in 300 lots) have been exhibited publicly on two previous occasions: at the Schuster gallery in the late 1990s and at the Tate Modern Liverpool in 2012, as part of an Alice in Wonderland exhibition that later moved to Italy and Germany. However, Mallams’ sale will provide the first opportunity to view the collection in its entirety - the myriad books, porcelain, artwork, posters, toys, dolls and ephemera that have surrounded the cult of Alice since the earliest years. They range from the rare and academically important to the downright bizarre. 
Greta Schuster and son Chris have chosen to sell the collection in Oxford for its intimate associations with the Alice story. It was famously during a boat trip on the Thames in 1862 that Christ Church College don Charles Dodgson first entertained the 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters with the tale of a girl who fell down a rabbit hole into a world called Wonderland.
Dodgson was persuaded to write down the story, with the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland first published in 1865. Every year Oxford celebrates all things Alice, with the annual Alice's Day celebrations scheduled this year for July 1.

For further information contact department specialist Mary Lloyd: 01865 241358
mary.lloyd@mallams.co.uk

The catalogue will be online at www.mallams.co.uk on Monday January 23 (although it's not on as yet, I have just checked)

The sale will be on view at Oxford saleroom from:
Saturday February 4 - 9am-1pm
Monday February 6 - 9am-5pm – followed immediately by a short talk by local historian and author Mark Davies, who will highlight some of the Oxford realities which informed Lewis Carroll's imagination, and make reference to some other famous Oxford authors featured in the auction.
Tuesday February 7 - 9am-5pm
Wednesday February 8 - morning of sale from 8.30am )
23 December 2016
Goanna eat some Alice cookies ....



And hope your Christmas is majestic!


12 December 2016


Just been sorting out the photos of the Alice in Wonderland coffee shop in Tokyo- must be one of the most unusual "Alice" themed places around and we had a really nice visit there, with a group of Japanese Carrollians. That is my friend Yoshi outside, and the ceramic sign says "Koseto" which means Old Seto pottery. So as well as being about Alice, it's also about pottery.



As you see, the interior is quite traditional in style, with the dark wooden walls, horizontal lines and calm atmosphere. There is pottery of all types - from the multifarious teacup designs to some one-off items like a splendid curved pottery plant holder which is at least a metre high! But the potter had a special love of Alice, so that is the main theme.





We had fun choosing the cakes



...mostly of the sweet and sticky variety...



And the staff created a complete work of art - just as well we had a bit of time to sit and chat - this place is the opposite of fast food, which is part of which gives it such a relaxing atmosphere



When the food came it was fun - complete with a cheerful little ceramic dog.





I was puzzled by this, though - a little bottle with a golden stopper...



I was amazed to find that it contained brandy - to go in my tea. At first, I thought it must be to go on the cinnamon toast I had ordered.

I've never heard of brandy in tea, (although it went very well) and the Japanese hadn't heard of whisky in coffee, so perhaps next time any of them come to London we will try that!


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