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The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon…

The Alice Behind Wonderland (2011)

by Simon Winchester

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16811111,848 (3.12)14
"In the summer of 1858, in a garden behind Christ Church in Oxford, Charles Dodgson--better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll--dressed the six-year-old Alice Liddell in ragamuffin's clothes, and then snapped the camera's shutter. In The Alice Behind Wonderland, Simon Winchester uses the famous photograph of Alice as the launching pad for an appreciative energetic and penetrating look at the inspiration behind, and the making of, one of the greatest classics of children's literature. Indeed, Winchester shows that Dodgson's love of photography deeply influenced his view of the world, helping to transform this shy and half-deaf mathematician into one of the world's best-loved observers of childhood. Much like the fictional Alice's world, as the photograph is subject to closer examination, 'Alice Liddell as The Beggar Maid' becomes curiouser and curiouser, capturing a moment during a golden afternoon that would endure forever. 'Alice Liddell as The Beggar Maid' was, in short, the muse that would inspire the creation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Deftly engaging with Dogson's published writings, private diaries, and photography, Winchester weaves together the poignant, turbulent, and entirely fascinating story behind Lewis Carroll and the making of his Alice. Acclaim for Simon Winchester "An exceptionally engaging guide at home everywhere, ready for anything, full of gusto and seemingly omnivorous curiosity." --Pico Iyer, The New York Times Book Review "A master at telling a complex story compellingly and lucidly." --USA Today "Extraordinarily graceful." --Time "Winchester is an exquisite writer and a deft anecdoteur." --Christopher Buckley "A lyrical writer and an indefatigable researcher." --Newsweek"--Provided by publisher.… (more)
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    Lewis Carroll, Photographer by Helmut Gernsheim (waltzmn)
    waltzmn: Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) is best known for the Alice books, but he was also an early photographer -- and is considered the first great photographer of children. Simon Winchester's book is largely about one image taken by Dodgson, "The Beggar Maid." Helmut Gernsheim's volume gives a greater context, discussing all of Dodgson's photographic career.… (more)

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» See also 14 mentions

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when one spends a great deal of time with creative sorts, one finds oneself collecting certain phrases; phrases that sound like compliments but are not exactly lies if a compliment is not deserved. There's is the quintessential "What an interesting painting!" but that's old hat and too easily seen through. One moves on to such words as "spectacular" (after all, a train wreck IS a spectacle) and "I am so impressed that you got that published!"

On the back of this book, as one of the blurbs, there is a masterpiece of the genre I speak of. "An extraordinary tale, and Simon Winchester could not have told it better"

This is accurate. Sadly, there are many other folks who COULD have told it better. ( )
1 vote Kesterbird | Jul 1, 2017 |
A brief look into the story, or should I say the backstory of Alice, the girl behind Alice of Wonderland, and the writer who created her. Gives a history of the beginnings of photography which has come a long way since. ( )
  charlie68 | Jun 7, 2016 |
I found this a fascinating entry point into learning something about the early days of photography, as well as a look at Lewis Carroll and his relationship to Alice Liddell (and the Liddell family), which was instrumental in his creation of Alice's famous adventures. As I had only heard vague murmurings about Carroll (Dodgson) and his photographs of (and apparent infatuation with) young children, it was helpful to find out what is known about his character and intentions (not a lot) and what is speculative. I began to think more about photography itself--how accessible and popular it has become--and what we attempt to record, inspire, capture, communicate through this medium. And I was touched in a bittersweet way by the way Winchester tells the story of the real-life Alice after wonderland. Looking forward to After Alice by Gregory Maguire next...have no idea where that will take me. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting from The Alice Behind Wonderland but I came out of this book feeling less than impressed. The main focus was on Dodgson's photography and in particular the photos that he took of Alice Liddell (with main focus on this image). I suppose I thought that this would further my knowledge of the man behind the famous stories of Wonderland and the girl called Alice. However, its narrowed focus on only one aspect of the man (and his relationship with the Liddells) left me feeling disappointed. The book covers Dodgson's fascination with photography and the history of photography itself. Briefly, Winchester touched on the controversy surrounding his "child friends" of which he took many photographs (some of them in the nude). I do appreciate that he made it clear that during this time period (the late 19th century) this was not seen as anything more than an attempt at capturing innocence and purity onto film. Nowadays, the first thought through anyone's mind is PEDOPHILE which we can neither confirm or deny because any evidence was erased long ago (Dodgson removed several pages from his diary or at least someone removed them for him). If you want a tiny glimpse into the man behind one of the world's most famous fairytales then you should take a look at this book. However, I recommend that you delve further and pick up some supplemental reading such as Morton Cohen's Lewis Carroll: A Biography. ( )
  AliceaP | Jan 20, 2016 |
Although the book implies that this is specifically about Alice Liddell, it is really only about the photograph of her as the beggar girl that Dodgson had taken of her, and of Dodgson's photography in general, in addition to a brief history of photography. Unfortunately,however, that is the only photo in the book---especially since it is constantly being compared to the other picture that had been taken of Alice that day in which she was in typical (and formal) VictoriaN attire. It is also later mentioned that Alice had posed for a similar picture years later for Julia Margaret Cameron, but again it is not shown.
I think that the author over rates her book in the suggestions for further reading section by stating that it: "adds minutely to the patina of knowledge".
Very little new information is contained in it at all. ( )
  TheCelticSelkie | Oct 7, 2015 |
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On the main floor of the Firestone Library, the cozily magnificent and prematurely ancient (it was built in 1948) Gothic centerpiece of the Princeton University campus, there i what appears to be the private library of an English gentleman's country house, carefully set back and hidden away to keep it from the general bustle of readers.
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