Alice
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The Pocket Watch
Happy Summer Days - June 2017


Alice is Everywhere   Somehow the excellent Alice is Everywhere website completely escaped my attention until today, when I heard its owner, Heather Simmons, speaking about the Beatles connection on BBC Radio 4. The site comprises a blog, a podcast and a gift shop, and you can also follow on various social media platforms. Again, not sure how I managed to miss this, but well worth visiting.

  Also worth a visit is the Story Museum's annual Alice's Day event in Oxford, taking place this year on Saturday 1 July. The theme for 2017 is Riddles and Games, with free, family-friendly performances and activities taking place at venues throughout the city, including Alice's Day 2017 Christ Church, The Ashmolean, Blackwell's Book Shop, Bodleian Libraries, Museum of History Science, Museum of Oxford, University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Alice's Shop and Oxford Castle. This year, visitors can take part in a Cheshire Cat Scavenger Hunt, in which a prize will be awarded for finding grins (without a cat) around the city, and also a well-justified protest against croquet-related cruelty towards hedgehogs!

Jackpots and a Loss - February 2017


Alice Through the Looking Glass 1966 album reissue   September 2016 saw the long-awaited reissue of the soundtrack album for NBC's 1966 TV Special, Alice Through the Looking Glass, as promised some seven years ago on the DVD! I guess the new Burton release is good for something after all. The album is available in both CD or MP3 format, with Moose Charlap and Elsie Simmons's delightful songs in crystal clear quality, featuring the vocals of Roy Castle, Nanette Fabray, Jimmy Durante, The Smothers Brothers and Judi Rolin.
Alice in Wonderland - Anglia Television
  In other exciting news, Anglia Television's 1985 serial of Wonderland has surfaced at last, and is available to watch in full on YouTube, thanks to Alice adaptation collector extraordinaire, Curiouser and Curiouser. This is an endearingly clumsy production, combining live action, puppetry and Janet Waldo illustration via bluescreen effects, and will likely make you feel nostalgic for a much simpler time.

  Sadly, 2016 claimed the lives of many talented and beloved performers, one of whom was Janet Waldo, the voice of Hanna Barbera and Burbank Films Australia's animated Alices Hanna Barbera's Alice from 1966's Wonderland (or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This) and 1987's Looking Glass respectively.

  Born in February 1920, Waldo is best known for providing the voices of classic Hanna Barbera characters Judy Jetson and Penelope Pitstop, and passed away at the age of 96 after a successful recording career spanning eight decades. Alice fans are fortunate to have been treated to not one, but two lovely voice characterisations from one of the best in the business.

Stamps and Story - May 2015


Royal Mail Anniversary Stamps   Wonderland's 150th birthday is clearly generating a resurgence of interest in Alice. Early this year, Royal Mail released this series of ten commemorative stamps, featuring artwork by illustrator Grahame Baker Smith. A pop-up book with the same illustrations was also published by Walker Books.

  The artwork combines hand illustration and digital photo collage techniques, and although their style may not present the most beautiful depiction of Alice's Adventures we have been treated to over the last century and a half, the images are certainly effective in capturing the spirit of the original stories.

  In March, Harvill Secker published 'The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and The Secret History of Wonderland' by Oxford University English Literature Professor Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.

The Story of Alice   Having gained glowing reviews ("Superb", "fascinating", "magnificent", "biography at its best") from seemingly every newspaper critic, this chunky tome, bound in red cloth with gold decoration to match its source material, takes much longer to peruse than Wonderland and Looking Glass put together. Formidable researcher Douglas-Fairhurst is not one to leave a stone unturned, and in the same way that Alice pleaded "Who in the world am I?", this book seems to suffer an identity crisis of its own. In many ways, Douglas-Fairhurst copes admirably with the challenges of this confusingly quadruple-layered biography, which delves not only into the life of Carroll/Dodgson, the enigmatic author with a double identity, but also Alice - both in the form of his muse, Alice Hargreaves née Liddell, and her literary counterpart. However, the writer can't seem to resist any opportunity for a poignantly poetic observation, which while insightful, can sometimes feel tenuous, and more like fiction than fact. A few minor tell-tale inaccuracies (quotations attributed to the wrong character, etc.) act as a reminder to take such imaginative readings with a pinch of salt.

  Where Douglas-Fairhurst truly shines is in his copious knowledge of the Victorian era and its literature, piecing together the social and historical context of the Alice stories with references to and quotations from other works of the time. Novels, poems, songs, travel guides, advertisements, diaries and letters (many unpublished) have all been resourcefully used to assemble the great puzzle. Evidently conscious of Alice's years of subjection to mindless speculation, this book is refreshingly free of agenda and sensationalism, serving as much to dispel as to disclose. It may not be concise, but it is sensitive, intelligent and an interesting, informative read. That said, I have to disagree with Jacqueline Wilson on it being "the ultimate book about Alice"; I'm afraid it will take more than this to steal Mavis Batey's crown!

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