Want to read with me? Follow this link to view the list and pick a book (or a few!) to read along with me. I'd love for this project to be collaborative, and will post anyone's thoughts beside my own.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why is a raven like a writing-desk?

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson [did you remember he used a pseudonym, friends? I did not.]

Spoiler Alert: Plot Poem
Alice down the rabbit hole [quite litrally, we mean]
Too tall, too small; rinse, repeat. Is this all a dream?

Cries her way to Wonderland with wild menagerie.
A caucus race is thus begun; the winner is... EVERYONE!

MaryAnn the rabbit messenger hunts for gloves and fan
Curious Alice drinks mystery drink just because she can.

Off she grows to such great heights, stymied one again
Arms in the window, lizard in the chimney; Bill's not feeling too zen.

Hookah-smoking caterpillar with mushroom domicile
Quizzles existentially, he brooks no denial.

Fish footmen for duchesses, pepper, babies, and pigs
Meetings with the Cheshire Cat; an airy grin he rigs.

Tea with a Hatter, humor a Dormouse, six the clock will chime
Riddles and rudeness, twinkles and treacle, buttering away the time.

Flamingo mallets and hedgehog balls, a game of queer croquet
Tempestuous duchess, a hotheaded Queen, "off with her head!" she'll say!

Mock turtle songs and lobster quadrilles, jury's out - who stole the tarts?
Important evidence (of nothing) is given to please the Queen of Hearts.

Larger, now, the girl awakes to think on Wonderland
Real or imagined, dreamed or not, it was most awfully grand.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

Dear Blobbists, 
   Did you like my rhyming? Alice connoisseurs may have noticed I omitted the Looking-Glass from my plot poem. If I'm being honest, I preferred the first volume by a teensy bit, and I also got tired of rhyming. ;)

If you have not read these little works, find a copy and devour them. They're bite-sized, and marvelous! Ostensibly they're children's books, but like all the best children's books, they're full of nuance for adults and witty puns and jokes no child would get. OK. Alice PSA Over!

If you're still reading (BECAUSE YOU ALREADY READ THEM, or because you ARE PLANNING TO REALLY SOON) (LIKE, TOMORROW, MAYBE) then please proceed.
I've decided to continue my new section, since this one had several...
Referents and Reverberations (I'll tell you a quote from this book, and I'll tell you a quote from another book from this blob that it reMinded me of. Sound like fun? Tbqh, I don't care what you think, the section is happening anyway. But #fingerscrossed you find it fun.)

Alice quotes:
"How queer everything is to-day! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I've changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? But if I'm not the same, the next question is, 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!"

"I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then."

Guesses, anyone? Hint: it's a Meredith FAVORITE, and an oft-referenced tome...

"So how, then, searching for our thoughts, our identities, as we search for lost objects, do we eventually recover our own self rather than any other? Why, when we regain consciousness, is it not an identity other than the one we had previously that is embodied in us? It is not clear what dictates the choice, or why, among the millions of human beings we might be, it is the being we were the day before that we unerringly grasp."

One MILLION pounds sterling to anyone who guessed PROUSTY-proust. What's that? OH, you want to be super-snooty and guess which VOLUME of Proust? OK, fine. Hint: there are seven. 

I'm thinking of a number between one and seven.... it's... THREE! The Guermantes Way. (Which, if you're a true blob fan, you might remember I accidentally read BEFORE number two. An honest mistake! If you're a FRENCH speaker, you most probably guessed it when you saw the Picture.)

OK, moving on to the next Alice quote(s):
'He said he would come in,' the White Queen went on, 'because he was looking for a hippopotamus. Now, as it happened, there wasn't such a thing in the house, that morning.'
'Is there generally?' Alice asked in an astonished tone.
'Well, only on Thursdays,' said the Queen."

lolz. OBVIOUSLY only on Thursdays, silly! and then this nugget:

"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Together, these reminded me of someone who also had a lot of thoughts involving breakfast...

"If I start thinking about something which didn't happen I start thinking about all the other things which didn't happen. For example, this morning for breakfast I had Ready Brek and some hot raspberry milk shake. But if I say that I actually had Shreddies and a mug of tea* I start thinking about Coco Pops and lemonade and porridge and Dr Pepper and how I wasn't eating my breakfast in Egypt and there wasn't a rhinoceros in the room and Father wasn't wearing a diving suit and so on..."
*But I wouldn't have Shreddies and tea because they are both brown.

So which was it, folks? A hippopotamus or a rhinoceros when you were eating breakfast? It IS Thursday, after all!

And for our last installment in this section, this quote from Alice:
'If that there King was to wake,' added Tweedledum, 'you'd go out - bang! - just like a candle!'
'I shouldn't!' Alice exclaimed indignantly. Besides, if I'm only a sort of thing in his dream, what are you, I should like to know?"

Which put me in mind of this quote:

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"

I gave you a picture clue, so I'm not telling for this one. Look it up if you must! ;)

How are we feeling, readers? Do you need a stretch break? Why don't you do a little 'cat/cow', get your mail, or grab a cuppa, and then roll on back. Here's a silly photo to cleanse your neural palate:




Aren't cats simply the silliest creatures? Susan has taken to slumbering in my closet, because it has the lumpiest clothes. Onward we go!

A new section I've decided to call "Things which were simply a part of my growing-up vernacular, and which I only now realize are from Wonderland"

Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never ever ever ever jam today. I really think I thought this was just a thing my mom said sometimes. I had completely forgotten that it was from Alice, and I'm not sure I knew there was a real song! Mom, were you quoting her?

stuffing the Dormouse into the teapot, and stories full of treacle

Alice - pudding: Pudding - Alice. now you've been properly introduced, so of course you can't EAT the pudding!

these lines:
'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing-wax - 
Of cabbages - and kings - 
And why the sea is boiling hot -
And whether pigs have wings.'

And now for some random thoughts...

Wit and Wordplay
Carroll/Dodgson has the MOST fun with the English language in these books. I don't know if I've ever read a book that took such pleasure in my native language, and it was truly a joyful experience. One of my favorite moments in the book is this one, which comes before the caucus race and when the animals (and Alice) are all sopping wet. The mouse jumps to the rescue:

'This is the driest thing I know.' "William the Conqueror, whose cause was favoured by the pope, was soon submitted to by the English..." lololololol. Get it. DRY? dry? (slaps knee and guffaws)



Who's your friend who likes to play?
Perhaps the only thing more fantastic than Carroll's delightful wordplay is his vivid imagination. One of my favorite creatures was the 'Snap-dragon-fly':
'Look on the branch above your head, and there you'll find a Snap-dragon-fly. Its body is made of plum-pudding, its wings of holly-leaves, and its head is a raisin burning in brandy.'
 'And what does it live on?' Alice asked.
'Frumenty and mince-pie,' the Gnat replied: 'and it makes its nest in a Christmas-box.'

It reminded me of BING BONG from Inside Out! (see video for more on Bong, Bing)

Tick tock, tick tock, Hook's afraid of an old dead clock...
Time is a frequent topic of discussion in the books, and there's even one section that had a pretty trippy 'Arrival'-style discussion of the future happening in the present and such. Here's my other favorite time-related quip:

The Mad Hatter: 'I dare say you never even spoke of Time!'
 'Perhaps not,' Alice cautiously replied; 'but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.'
'Ah! That accounts for it,' said the Hatter. 'He won't stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he'd do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were nine o'clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you'd only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!" are you on good terms with Time, blobbists? What time would you make it, if you could?

What are you, after all?
Many of the creatures Alice encounters ask her what she is, and she is accused of being a great many other things (my favorite of which is a serpent). One creature asks her: 

'Are you a child or a teetotum?' and if, at this moment, you are thinking to yourself, WHAT, praytell, is a teetotum, and/or did Monsieur Carroll make that up? 

THIS (see left) is a teetotum. It is apparently a top. Not necessarily twelve-sided, though this one is, but generally containing some sort of numbered sides to determine a winner. 

Please let me know if you knew this word and I will give you BONUS POINTS ON THE NEXT QUIZ. 

This exchange reminded me of one of my favorite moments in the movie 'Stranger Than Fiction', when Dustin Hoffman says, "Aren't you relieved to know you're not a golem?"

And if you are NOW wondering what a golem is,
"In Jewish folklore, a golem (/ˈɡoʊləm/ GOH-ləm; Hebrew: גולם‎‎) is an animated anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from inanimate matter (specifically clay or mud)."
OK everyone. Time for that POP QUIZ! (No, I didn't forget that you Might have gotten bonus points for knowing teetotum!)


Real or not real? Are the items below references to real things, Carroll-isms, or a bit of both?

jabberwocky - Carroll-ism, though now a term that extends beyond Alice, imho. Also, the only poem I know in full (don't worry, family, I've STOPPED trying to rememberize the Raven)


Lory - a bit of both. Here are side-by-side pictures of the Lory in Alice and a lory IRL.


caucus race - real words, turned into Carroll-ism. According to CLW (or LC) "all participants have to run in circles until an arbitrary end is called and everyone is declared a winner". my kind of race.

treacle - I honestly didn't know if this was a real thing. Apparently it's just the British term for molasses. 

un-birthdays - Carrollism [BUT CAN THEY BE REAL THO] - "three hundred sixty-four days when you might get presents because it is Not your birthday." So obviously we should be doing this. 

Clap backs from Wonderland
In honor of the sassiness of these novels, I am including a new section. For those unfamiliar with the term, here is a definition of 'clap back': 

Frog footman:
"How am I to get in?" asked Alice again, in a louder tone.
'Are you to get in at all?' said the Footman. 'That's the first question, you know.'"

The Rose, in the garden of live flowers:
"This sounded a very good reason, and Alice was quite pleased to know it. 'I never thought of that before!' she said.
 'It's my opinion that you never think at all,' the Rose said, in a rather severe tone."


The Mad Hatter and the March Hare
"You should say what you mean.'
'I do.' Alice hastily replied; 'at least - at least I mean what I say - that's the same thing, you know.'
'Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter. 'Why, you might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see'!'

'Really, now you ask me,' said Alice, very much confused, 'I don't think--"
'Then you shouldn't talk,' said the Hatter.'

The Dormouse
"'I wish you wouldn't squeeze so,' said the Dormouse, who was sitting next to Alice. 'I can hardly breathe.'
 'I can't help it,' said Alice very meekly: 'I'm growing.'
'You've no right to grow here,' said the Dormouse.
'Don't talk nonsense,' said Alice more boldly: you know you're growing too.'
'Yes, but I grow at a reasonable pace,' said the Dormouse: 'not in that ridiculous fashion."

Tweedledum
"It's no use your talking about waking him, when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real.'
'I am real!' said Alice, and began to cry.
'You won't make yourself a bit realler by crying."

Humpty Dumpty
'What does the name Alice mean?'
'Must a name mean something?' Alice asked doubtfully.
'Of course it must,' Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: my name means the shape I am - and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost."

The Red Queen
'Do you know Languages? What's the French for fiddle-de-dee?'
'Fiddle-de-dee's not English,' Alice replied gravely.
'Who ever said it was?'

Phrases we should all say more often:
  • As sure as ferrets are ferrets. so many possible uses!
  • Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you're at! that's the Suzuki song, right?!
  • I'm doubtful about the temper of your flamingo. I'm gonna start saying this to everyone.
  • 'I shouldn't know you again if we did meet, you're so exactly like other people.' this seems like a great option after a failed first date, or perhaps to an ex, upon conscious uncoupling.
  • You might as well try to catch a Bandersnatch! a possible alternative to 'Who is John Galt?'
Well, I certainly hope you've enjoyed this rollicking romp through Wonderland, and (final plug) if you haven't read these because you "think you know the story from pop culture", GO READ them, plzzzz.

I will leave you with my three favorite quotes.

#1
"We are but older children, dear,
Who fret to find our bedtime near."
I often feel like an old child, who constantly frets to find her bedtime near! Do you, blobbists?

#2
The Unicorn, to Alice:
"This is a child? I always thought they were fabulous monsters. 
If you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a bargain?"
Such a great exchange. If you believe in me blob readers, I'll believe in you! Deal?

#3
"In that direction lives a Hatter: and in that direction lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'
 'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice. 
'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here."

Enjoy your late summer evening, watch the temper of your flamingo, clap back when you can, and only eat jam TOMORROW and YESTERDAY. Have fun among the mad people, from one mad person (and one mad cat) to another. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Diana's Thoughts on "Ceremony"

As promised, here are Diana's thoughts on Ceremony:


This book was nothing like I thought it would be. When I looked at the list of upcoming books to try to identify ones I might want to read along with you, I saw the title "Ceremony" and the name Leslie Marmon Silko. The "silk" part of her last name made me think of luxurious cloth, and coupled with the title I had an idea that the book would be something delicate, feminine, perhaps about a family saga or a marriage (the first kind of ceremony that came to mind). So...I guess this should be a reminder to all of us not to judge a book by its cover (or by the imagery evoked by the title and author alone).

I, unfortunately, did not like this book, did not find it to be feminine or delicate, and did not discover within it a steady narrative of any kind. You could hardly even say that it's about any character at all -- in my opinion Tayo is just a stand-in for Indian people (again, I'm following Silko's lead here with the terminology), and I never connected with him because he's just a composite of emotions and experiences, completely overshadowed by Silko's love affair with nature and her native New Mexico and the web of origin stories/poems she throws in throughout the book. I think the whole thing would be more successful as a blend of short stories and poetry, but maybe that's just my frustration with modern novels talking.

In any case, I found this book brutal, confusing, and occasionally tender, but the moments when I was able to appreciate a thought or a gem of writing were few and far between. At the start, I thought I might be able to get behind Tayo as an underdog, as a castoff within his own family, as someone who made it back from the war when his best friend and uncle did not, however, as the pages went on, I found the rest of the book almost impossible to read. Silko stolidly refuses to help the reader understand Where or When in the story we are, as paragraphs begin willy nilly with such lines as, "He was sitting in the sun outside the screen door when they came driving into the yard." Not only did I not know where geographically the action was taking place, I didn't even know what time it was. I suppose that was partly by design, as the journey Tayo embarks on is more psychological and spiritual than it is physical, but considering that Silko is also obsessed with the land and the flecks of color on the trees and the gulleys and the stone etc. etc. etc. I might have thought she would help us figure out the geography a little more.

I suppose I could say that I learned a little more about the perspective of American Indians from this book than I knew before, but what I really wanted by the end was to know what Leslie Marmon Silko thought, directly, emotionally, not through this veil of poems and confusing plot and characters who never became real to me. I wish I could be less negative, but I think it just comes back to the fact that I read books to enjoy characters going on adventures or solving mysteries or revealing universal truths, but this book was not about characters; it was about ideas like mistrust and betrayal and loss and it was just too fragmented and confusing for me to piece it together to appreciate it. So, I'm sorry Leslie Marmon Silko; I'm going to have to find something else to read if I want to expand my perspective on American lndian life."