Tag Archives: Lewis Carroll

The joys of library booksales

Before I start, let me just say that the books you are about to see haven’t all been bought from library booksales, despite what the title of this post says. However, we have managed to strike ridiculously with the sale in our local library, as our two boys now have about 15 or more new books for little over £3. Who would argue with that?

I didn’t get as many, but have acquired a few recently from other sources too. Before I list these, let me just mention these two books first:

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Please forgive the absolutely atrocious quality of the photo, but they are:

  • Plato-  Republic     50p
  • Francis Pryor-  Britain AD: A Quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons     50p

I meant to do a blog post on these over a week ago, but just never got around to it. The latter book has refueled my interest in the Anglo-Saxons (I haven’t really picked up on this recently, in part because all of my Saxon archaeology books are still sitting in large fruit-boxes in our boxroom, along with the majority of our other books), and it actually seems to be an academic text masquerading as a populist history work. Always nice. However, the main thing I want to say about these is just that I was quite shocked with the way the woman behind the counter in the charity shop looked at me when I handed them over to pay. Do people in our area not read such books? Are ancient Greek philosophy and Anglo-Saxon archaeology beyond the scope of people here, are were they just beyond her? I don’t know. Anyhoo. The other recent purchases stand as follows:

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  • Anthony Kamm-  The Romans: An Introduction     50p (library book sale)
  • Roald Dahl-  Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life     10p (library book sale)
  • Albert Camus-  The Plague     25p
  • Jean Rhys-  Voyage in the Dark     50p
  • Anon.-  Sweeney Todd or A String of Pearls     50p
  • Jules Verne-  Journey to the Centre of the Earth     50p (Folio Society edition!)
  • Stephen Hawking-  A Brief History of Time: The Updated and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition     50p (library book sale)
  • Lewis Carroll-  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass     10p (library book sale)

As you may recall from a previous post, I already own a copy of the Hawking work, but thought that 50p wasn’t bad for an updated edition; similarly, you may recall from a previous book-buying post and my ‘Thoughts on…’, I already have individual copies of the Carroll books, but for 10p… Well, there’s an intro. in this one, a series of notes, extra text not in the ones I had, and also the spine isn’t faded (as my individual copies were). Oh, and it’s published by Oxford University Press, too. Not bad. Also, the Roman book is published by Routledge, which is a very good publisher of archaeology texts, and appeared regularly in the bibliographies that accompanied my essays at uni. This book would actually have been handy to have had then, as it covers a lot of background about the Romans that would have been useful for essay background and revision.

I plan to get up soon several ‘Thoughts on…’ posts, as I’ve been reading quite a bit recently (as I said in my last post), and hope to get these done soon. The books I will be looking at are ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘Roverandom’, ‘The Torrents of Spring’, ‘Just So Stories’, and ‘Diamonds are Forever’- so quite a bit to come!

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Thoughts on Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ books

aiw and ttlg

I actually finished reading these two over a week ago, but have only just got around to posting anything about them. Now, it may seem strange that I have been reading two children’s books, but they are two that I’ve wanted to read for quite a while and have never had the chance before now due in part to never owning copies. Also, having lived in Oxford- the home of Alice and the home of a rather quaint shop selling nothing but Alice memorabilia- I feel that I sort of have a duty to read them.

I know the story of the first from the Disney cartoon from 1951, and simply adored the 2010 live action version despite the plot alterations and the more radical mash-up of the two stories, but was actually rather surprised by just how many famous sections of the Disney film are taken from ‘Through the Looking Glass’- for instance, the talking flowers and Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I was also pleasantly surprised by how good the two books are, and reminded again that children’s books in the 19th century were actually far more intellectual and difficult than they are now, which is no bad thing, but which is a sad state for current children’s literature. Honestly, I don’t think that I could pick a favourite out of the two, but I did find ‘Through the Looking Glass’ a tad dragging in places due to the exasperating amount of discussions between the Queens over the logic of their conversations and the laborious actions of the White Knight. In contrast, the wordplay by the Gryphon in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ is truly brilliant, and the story in this one for me is a lot tighter. I don’t know if that is just because it is more familiar, though. ‘Through the Looking Glass’ also has the added bonus of containing the poem ‘Jabberwocky’, which I had forgotten was such a good piece of writing.

I am glad that I read these two books, as they are perhaps the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time (and made such a refreshing change from the not long finished ‘Ulysses’, which is still casting an unhealthy shadow over me several months after completing it). It has also made me realise just how many other books have been inspired by Carroll’s (or should I really say Dodgson’s) use of nonsense and the concept of a journey by a central character, on which they meet a number of strange characters. One of the most obvious such books is ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ by Norton Juster. I have read this, but long now to read it again, and hope to get a copy soon so as I can. Looking at Wikipedia, there are a vast number of books using the world of Alice and similar characters or settings, but I find those like the aforementioned ‘…Tollbooth’ the most interesting due to not attempting to align themselves with Carroll’s work whilst still retaining that seed and element. Interestingly, Wiki also says that Joyce’s ‘Finnegans Wake’ also contains several references, but… I don’t fancy reading it to find out… I do, fancy writing my own Alice-esque novel off the back of my reading, however, and so may have to get thinking…

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Reading update

I haven’t posted on here for a few days, but in this time I have managed to procure some new reading matter, and have made progress with another book. However, I haven’t started the Kafka book I said I would read next. This will be digested in due course. Anyhoo- my new books can be seen below:

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Incase the titles are a tad difficult to read, here they are from left to right, along with the price that I paid for them:

  • Lewis Carroll- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (two volumes)  10p each (yes- really!)
  • Ian Fleming- Diamonds are Forever  50p
  • John Ruskin- On Art and Life (Penguin Great Ideas No. 15)  50p
  • Penelope Lively- Heat Wave  25p
  • Carol Ann Duffy- The World’s Wife  25p
  • Rudyard Kipling-  Just So Stories  £1.49
  • Thomas More- Utopia  £1.49
  • Seamus Heaney- North  £1.49
  • Martin Amis- Money  £1.49

I have currently been distracted away from the Kafka collection by another Penguin Classics book titled The Cloud of Unknowing and other works, which is a decent-sized volume of 14th century Christian teachings about the sheer impossibility of actually perceiving and understanding God, which I have recently learnt is actually a way of thinking that is taken up by the Eastern Churches, but not so much in the West. In the West the view is generally more along the lines of God being a friendly, approachable father-figure, whereas in the East, he is a powerful and unreachable being who cannot be represented in human terms and who can never be fully understood by simple mortals weighed down by sin and their perception of the body. To truly know God, The Cloud teaches that a person must become a contemplative, and be able to stop perceiving and thinking about his own existence to focus solely on God. The …other works of the title are shorter pieces believed to have been written by the same anonymous author upon similar themes, and it is in fact quite a good read. A tad heavy going at times, but it certainly gives food for thought and has provided me with a few new ways to look at both myself, my faith, and my perception of God. Also, the whole idea of a ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ is a great metaphor and image to use in my poetry…

tcou

Once I’ve finished this, I plan to read the Heaney and Duffy poetry collections, and then the two Lewis Carroll books, before finally getting to the Kafka. I promise to provide opinions etc. when I finish these.

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