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26 February 2010
Mayfair Public Library, W.1

A review in the Times of London. Apparently there's another in Newsday (a US magazine), which also includes Melanie Benjamin's fascinating sounding Alice I Have Been, which I've just ordered from Amazon. There's another nice review on Nayu's Reading Corner a great blog which has a lot of YA and fantasy. And a mention from the Toronto Globe & Mail which has a good pic of the cover and a brief comment about the book. And the Boston Globe has put out a very intelligent and well informed piece.

Talking of reviews, I've got one to write myself. It's a YA review for the Ham and High - I've been reviewing children's books for them forever. There's a terrific one, "When I was Joe" by an author who doesn't live too far from me, Keren David. It explores the idea of a teenager getting a new identity under the Witness Protection Programme - an aspect that had never occurred to me. Very interesting. Also a book which has stayed with me for ages, called "Out of Shadows" about Zimbabwe in the 1980s. I've just read an intriguing review of it in "The Zimbabwean". Such a lot of marvellous stuff being written for YAs these days.

The picture shows Mayfair Public Library, a tiny and architecturally rather beautiful library in the heart of some of London's poshest real estate. It's so welcoming and comfortable, and not a bit pretentious. The ideal spot for sitting and reading reviews other people have written of books one's never heard of.
25 February 2010
Just spotted this Artspark Theatre Alice Totem Teeshirt. It is sufficiently offbeat to appeal to me. I don't wear teeshirts any more but I'm wondering if I know anyone who does.
24 February 2010
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Yoshi has sent a bag full of ephemera from Japan, including some publicity for Tim Burton's new Alice in Wonderland. Super!

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20 February 2010
. I feel a review coming on...

This is me, feeling a review coming on.

There has been quite a bit of news coverage of THE MYSTERY OF LEWIS CARROLL in publications as far afield as Chile, and there was a sizeable piece in the London Sunday Times last week. I've also been interviewed for various publications and radio programmes in various parts of the world, and I'm told that there are also reviews in the pipeline in both the US and UK. So far I have only noticed a few reviews, and none of them are in print publications - but then I don't see US print publications and the book is not yet published in the UK.

It is a strange feeling to have one's book criticised publicly. So far the response has not been negative, and I imagine when I do get hurtful negative responses (as I surely will) I'll only feel cross if it seems the reviewer hadn't read the book properly, or is deliberately misrepresenting it. . Still, I'd have that in common with Carroll. It seems many of the criticisms of him - like the paedophile one I've linked to below - are made by people who know almost nothing about what he really said and did.

Here are a couple of the online reviews:

Fantasy Book Review

Bookgasm

I'm very pleased with Jonathan Wilkin's review on Amazon.com. I appreciate it because he has bought the book himself and taken the trouble to say what he thinks in a thoughtful considered way, on Amazon. . Even if the reviews aren't as good as Jonathan Wilkin's, it makes me feel that my words are connecting with real people.

I've put the "paedophilia" article on another page of this site, so it will stay there permanently



18 February 2010
I'm pleased that Dovegreyreader.com (aka Lynne) has "The Mystery of Lewis Carroll" on her to-read list. She posted briefly about it here.She's often referred to as the top UK literary blogger, and her reviews are beautifully written, intelligent and entirely accessible. Although I know whatever she says will be worth hearing, I await her thoughts with some apprehension, because she admits to being prejudiced against Carroll and is hoping my book will change her mind.

My aim has never been to change anyone's mind, because I tried very hard to approach Carroll without an agenda and see what I found. I confess I’d hoped to find someone nice, because I loved “Alice." But if he’d been unpleasant, pretending otherwise wouldn’t have changed anything.

As it happened, I generally liked him. He was interesting, clever, kind, reasonably cheerful, surprisingly strong-minded and generally well adjusted to his society. I specially liked it that he tried hard to be good. That’s a bit unfashionable nowadays, but he seems to have taken it extremely seriously.

Perhaps the closed-in, repressive Victorian era suited him, really, because it made him rein himself in and hide himself away. That pruning or starving or deprivation, somehow seemed to make him stronger and more vivid. I wonder if he'd seem less interesting in today’s open and publicity-conscious world.

Here he is as a young man, perched on a windowsill at Croft Rectory. And oh, yes, there’s a cat again. Can it possibly be HIS cat? No; it’s Raine Szramski’s cat, GoGo, posing obligingly for this tableau. No smiles, but then GoGo's not the Cheshire type. Thanks, Raine (and GoGo).

Not the Cheshire Cat




15 February 2010
The UK edition of the book is very handsome - there's a giveaway for UK, Europe and Commonwealth readers only - on Michelle's Bleedingespresso blog. The UK print run is quite small so take your opportunity to grab a copy of this edition for free!

Michelle's blog is widely (and deservedly) popular. It deals with many aspects of her expat life in Calbria, with writing, food, animals, books, and local life and landscapes. Not only this but there is hard, useful information about these matters, too - she was a lawyer in her previous life. She is friendly and responsive, and so dropping by at her blog is a bit like calling on a sociable, smart and literate friend

I was looking through my pictures today to see if I could find one that suited this post, and got sidetracked (as usual). I realised that many of the pictures that interest me show some kind of ambiguity. That mysteriousness is one of the things that attracted me to Carroll, too. Here's one I took in Shobdon, Herefordshire. It has absolutely nothing to do with Michelle, Calabria, Carroll, the book, or anything, of course. It's a view through a window of the curious little gothic church at Shobdon.

Window at Shobdon church


The original church was very old, and the lord of the manor who pulled it down, re-erected some of the facade at the top of a nearby hill, as a sort of folly. Folly indeed - it was almost unique and now the weather has nearly worn it away. Yet it has acquired a new, and different atmosphere.

The old facade

Shobdon now is a very peculiar place. The estate has been broken up and the manor is apartments. I'll write about it more another time, but here's a picture of the road that leads up to the church. As the sun set and the mists gathered, it felt like walking into another time.

Keep walking...


13 February 2010
I see the "Dark Alice" blog has a book giveaway of this book . It's a nice blog, with lots of "Alice" stuff on it and quite a few giveaways.

Make this cheshire cat!

At present the preoccupation is Tim Burton's movie, but there are lots of things. This is a model cheshire cat that you can make. I love how it has been photographed. You really get an idea of its personality.

09 February 2010
Carroll had some of the best rooms in Christ Church, a very large apartment. It's a mystery why he then apparently decided to rent a flat above a pawnbroker's. He wrote about it to his niece, Edith, saying that

"You see one is so cramped in one's tiny College rooms, but, by having
a house in Brewer Street AS WELL, one really has enough room to swing a
cat.

He took a second storey flat
In which you could not swing a cat
But such was never his intent
His only object was low rent
And to swing cats he never meant.""

Nobody has the remotest idea what he meant, or what he did with and in his apartment. But here are

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2 cats which are very happy living on a boat on the Thames, which probably has even less space than a flat above a pawnbrokers. And they look happy enough.


08 February 2010
I was really, really pleased today to get an email from Guy Saville. I mentioned his book "The Africa Reich" last October (here) I just couldn't believe it hadn't found a publisher despite there being so much in its favour.

Well, Guy has now sold the book to Hodder and Stoughton - it's a two book deal for a five figure sum. And so, re-named as "The Afrika Reich" the book will finally be hitting the bookshelves next year.

Although I don't know Guy very well (we "met" online via the mutual critique group Youwriteon.com ) I had been really impressed by his work from the start. His failure to find a buyer was somehow making me wonder whether there was really any point in getting my own work as good as possible. Moan groan, if Guy Saville can't find a publisher, what's the point, etc.

So I now feel that the world of fiction publishing isn't altogether arbitrary and unfair. Right now, I'm totally embroiled in Lewis, but when this dies down I want to get working again on my YA novel, and I will do so with a more optimistic heart.


06 February 2010
Burlesque Bunny

I'm not much of a collector of Alice items or books but I do have a few unusual things. They include the world's most hideous lucifer holder which apparently stood on Lewis Carroll's desk while he wrote "Sylvie and Bruno." (People who see this weird item, which I haven't photographed yet, sometimes say this could explain a lot about "Sylvie and Bruno" ....)

I have also kept Malcolm Ashman's Serpent's Tail illustrated versions of the two "Alice" books because although they are not well known, I like their atmosphere, both cosy and surreal. A bit hard to find links, but there is one here.

And a couple of days ago I bought Tigz Rice's "Wonderland" which uses the imagery in "Alice in Wonderland" and images of burlesque to capture the squalid horror of drug addiction. Her book is very powerful, both hideous and glamorous at the same time, which is what serious drug using can sometimes be about. I think it would be a good book to use in schools with older groups, because it is so sincere and not a bit preachy - but I can't see parents liking it. You can buy it online on her website. Sorry, it's not a very good photo.

I've put another image from Tigz's book on the Mystery of Lewis Carroll Facebook page, under Images of Carrollian scenes. (I think the FB page is open to public viewing.)
02 February 2010
I just have to post this amazing image someone sent me. What do you think of it?

Alice on your back


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