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The life of Lewis Carroll by Florence Becker…
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The life of Lewis Carroll (1946)

by Florence Becker Lennon

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Note to future authors. Wrong is bad enough. Stupid is worse. But irritatingly stupidly wrong -- just don't go there, OK?

The amount of wrong stuff about Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll is immense. For example, all the sexual claims in things like "Lewis Carroll Psychoanalized" and William Epson's "The Child As Swain" are wrong because:
1. Sigmund Freud was wrong, so if you psychoanalyze Dodgson, you're gonna be wrong
2. They inflict their thinking on Dodgson, ignoring both Dodgson's historical context and Dodgson's patent autism
3. They get their facts wrong anyway!

So: Those books are stupid and wrong. And much of this airy-fairy book partakes of that same sort of criticism -- without even the virtue, if virtue it be, of actually understanding Freud. So this book is even sillier than Empson.

But here's what makes it truly awful: Florence Becker Lennon had access to real sources. She actually talked to Lorina Liddell Skene (the older sister of Alice Liddell, who is the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland). Lennon was the last, and one of the few, people to do so. She had a primary source. And what did she do with it? Nothing. She just sat there saying, "Here is what Dodgson must have thought," without ever bothering to check it against data. She is so wrong-headed that she can't even figure out whether he was the oldest child of his parents or not (he wasn't; he was the oldest son, but there were older sisters).

I got this book because I knew Lennon had talked to Skene. But it was a complete, total waste. No footnotes, no real use of her sources, many errors, much silliness, and an author who couldn't even put together a coherent story line. (She would probably have said she wasn't writing biography, but that's no excuse for error!) You'd think an editor would have said, "Calm down and get it right." But, clearly, no one did.

And so -- as you can surely tell from the tone of this review -- we got stuck with a book that is wrong, stupid -- and irritating. ( )
  waltzmn | Aug 20, 2016 |
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Dedication
DEDICATED TO
VAN WYCK BROOKS,
WHOSE "ORDEAL OF MARK TWAIN"
FOUND THE BITTER ALMOND
AT THE CORE OF
THEMAN WHO LAUGHS
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Preface
AN APOLOGIES FOR BIOGRAPHIES
All the great abstractions -- Genius, Love, Religion -- like Peer Gynt, resemble an onion.
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Please note: "Victoria through the looking-glass" was published in the UK as "The Life of Lewis Carroll" - these ARE the same work, do not seperate.
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