You dig out some old book reviews you wrote about Alice In Wonderland related books and post them instead.
Two recent additions to my collection have been Alice In Washington by Richard Pray Bonine and Alice In Blunderland: An Iridescent Dream by John Kendrick Bangs. The latter was published in 1907 so a new thing this most definitely isn’t.
Satire by its very nature has a short shelf life. Targets that are well known and in the public eye today could well be largely forgotten tomorrow. Today’s satire can all too easily become tomorrow’s incomprehensible gibberish.
So how does the 1907 book fare? Surprisingly well, is the answer. Bangs chose to satirise concepts – specifically the concept of state ownership as opposed to private enterprise. He also managed to do it in such a way that while not understanding the point would remove some of the pleasure from the book it would nonetheless remain quite amusing for the absurdities used as illustration - the train that completely encircles the city and doesn’t actually move (you get on at your stop and walk along the train until you reach the stop where you want to get off) for example or the attempt to run cars on a mixture of cologne and hot air which is very logically and reasonably explained.
It’s a brief but moderately entertaining read and by targeting ideas and concepts remains at least partially relevant today.
Perhaps someone who is American can read the thing and enlighten me. Is it just my British perspective or am I being over generous in thinking I’d like it better if I came from
Sequels by other hands are often tricky beasts and never more so than when, as here, presented with the central conceit that they are a “lost manuscript” by the original author. This, like other pretenders, is of course no such thing. It is a new story. The problem with it is that the pretence that it is a lost Carroll manuscript extends to a series of long footnotes explaining how the various jokes and whimsies fit into the lives and events surrounding both Dodgson and Alice Liddell. These footnotes are done in the style of “The Annotated Alice” side by side with the text. For example the footnotes to one of the poems (giving the recipe for a rather unusual pie) explain that the ingredient “wet collodian” was a photographic chemical with which Dodgson would have been familiar and the nonsense word “queechy” refers to a novel by Elizabeth Wetherell that he gave to his sister Henrietta on her twelfth birthday. The depth of research into Dodgson’s life is impressive but as a literary device it all rapidly becomes rather tiresome and it’s a good idea to read the book through and ignore the footnotes altogether until you have finished.
What, then, of the story itself? At ninety pages it’s quite a thin tale but pastiches the style of Carroll quite well. Some of the puns and jokes are good and there are quite a lot of amusing touches. The artwork while not in the Tenniel style complements the story nicely and I suspect that there are many references and subtleties that a single reading has failed to reveal to me. The main problem is that at times it tries rather too hard to be clever. References to Descartes and an exposition of Zeno’s paradox are deftly handled but seem a little out of place. The insistence on explaining some of them in those annoying Gardneresque footnotes doesn’t help. As soon as you need to explain a joke it ceases to be funny.
The story has
What of the poems and songs? Once again they are in the correct style and character and with a nice whimsy but they lack the surety of Dodgson’s metre and caused me to stumble in trying to get the rhythms right.
Final verdict? A slight but diverting dreamlike tale which would have been all the better if more attention had been given to crafting a longer story and less to the learned and mock-erudite footnotes.
Bad Alice (Jean Ure) It’s impossible to review this book adequately without giving away the major plot points so if you are likely to read it -- and in spite of it being a very disturbing read I recommend that you do -- and don’t want to know in advance what it’s about then skip to the end of the review now.
It’s impossible to review this book adequately without giving away the major plot points so if you are likely to read it -- and in spite of it being a very disturbing read I recommend that you do -- and don’t want to know in advance what it’s about then skip to the end of the review now.
Still here? Then let’s get on with it.
As the plot unfolds the disturbing nature of
Come to that raising the awareness of the problem among adults is also not a bad idea. Maybe, if enough people had their awareness raised then we could eradicate this kind of thing altogether and books like this would become unnecessary.
Final verdict. A sensitive, disturbing and above all necessary read.