Curiouser and Curiouser: My Favorite Alices – Post by Christina Henry, bestselling novelist

Blogging/editorial note from bobbygw: In celebration of the UK publication of Alice by bestselling novelist Christina Henry, this post is by the author (also author of the highly successful Black Wings trilogy comprising Black Spring, Black Heart, Black City). This post is part of her blog tour series to promote this great book (I’ll publish my review later this week). There’s more info about her entertaining tour at the end of this post, so you can read all her posts in the series at your leisure. Note: Titan Books will publish Red Queen, the sequel to Alice, on July 12 2016 in paperback and ebook editions.

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One of the most influential fantasy stories of all time is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’ve written before that Alice and her story have become embedded in our cultural memory in such a way that even people who’ve never read the original story feel as though they must have.

Alice’s story is so iconic and has such a fairy-tale-like, almost mythical quality that many filmmakers and authors (including myself) have dipped into that sandbox to create our own Wonderlands (or in my case, more of a Nightmareland) and shape our own versions of Alice.

There have been lots of direct interpretations of the story, and I love many of them, but I’m especially interested in the stories that have Alice’s DNA without being specifically Alice stories. After all, any story that has a hole for the hero/heroine to fall through or a magical door to another world owes a debt to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Here are my four favorite Alices (and almost Alices):

4) Disney’s 1951 Alice in Wonderland film – This is the first version of the story that I remember seeing, and it remains one of the most enduring for me.  The Cheshire Cat, in particular, becomes much more whimsical and charming in this version. In the book I always felt he just enjoyed thwarting Alice, but his mischievous expressions in the film mitigate that to some degree.

3) C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Supernatural passageway to another world? Check. Young heroine who discovers a magical world and creatures and accepts them in a matter-of-fact way? Check. Much is made of both the Christian allegory and epic fantasy elements of this story, but at its heart this book is Lucy’s Adventures in Narnia.

2) Neil Gaiman’s Coraline – Here Alice is called Coraline, and the passage she goes through brings her to a place that seems wonderful at first but quickly turns dark and frightening. There’s even a black cat whose helpful unhelpfulness rivals the Cheshire’s.

1) Angela Carter’s “Wolf-Alice” from The Bloody Chamber and Other StoriesThis story has a loose tie to Through the Looking Glass and also to a version of Little Red Riding Hood. I adore Angela Carter and the way she interpreted the darkness in well-known fairy tales. In this story Alice becomes a self-aware adult, which is a theme that runs underneath the Carroll stories – all along Alice is becoming less childlike, more grownup.

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More about Christina Henry’s wonderful blog tour:

 

Alice Blog Tour Banner#2

Welcome to Nightmareland: A blog tour with Christina Henry, author of Alice and Red Queen

 

 

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Trump Chicken: A Grotesque Tale

 

Trump Chicken - A Grotesque Tale by bobbygw - book cover

A grotesque – or monstrous? – 99 cents or equivalent from Amazon

Dear Reader

When Donald Trump flounced onto the American political stage, with his usual gaseous blatherings and foul mouth, I wondered to myself whether we had entered the beginning of the end of times.

Let’s hope not. After all, we have enough problems to deal with, thanks to life’s bountiful and glorious pageant.

In the meantime if, like me, you have experienced one or more emotions of shock, depression, dumbfoundment, apoplexy and hysterial laughter about the ascendancy of The Donald and his shenanigans―then I think my new tall tale may be the restorative respite you have been searching for.

If you relish satire and a dash of gonzo storytelling, then I hope you’ll find this story is just your cup of tea―as we (sadly) don’t often say nowadays in merry ol England (which never existed, worst luck).

Feeling adventurous? Oh, go on, my lovely! Here’s a free taster of Trump Chicken: A Grotesque Tale.

As always, please know that I’d be deliriously happy and foaming at the apertures―euwh, I know―to send you a free Kindle edition or PDF of the complete story for you to read, if you wouldn’t mind possibly, ever-so-slightly-considering writing a review of it.

But fair warning, good folk: those with delicate stomachs, nervous dispositions, a tendency to the right wing of society, the rich―well, this monstrous imagining ain’t for you, and I apologise for any offence I may have caused by my presumptuous outrageousness in criticising The Man with that Hair.

Cheers and thank you for reading. Holler me with comments or feedback. I’ll always respond.

Muchos muchos

bobbygw

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Divine Waters: Role Models by John Waters

I’m soon going to be reviewing marvelous Mr Waters’ latest book so, in his honour, here’s my appreciation of his last essay collection.

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Click image to buy the paperback with free delivery worldwide

John Waters is arguably America’s most wonderful, funny, quirky and clever cult film director — after all, who can forget, once seen, the marvels of‘the movie Pink Flamingosand Female Trouble and the amazing Divine!? — and, for those who aren’t already fans of his journalism as well, John Waters is a gifted writer with a grace and tone as smooth as silk: this is demonstrated abundantly in Role Models, his latest collection of journalism/essays. You can hear his voice as he reflects, shares, meditates and wryly comments on a lot of topics, from modern artists to neglected novelists, fashion designers to murderers, singers to fantasy, collecting and much more. He’s widely read and, inevitably I think, his own cultural interests are equally wide-ranging; unsurprisingly, too, the essays are all reflective of his quirky, distinctive — and, I…

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For all aspiring writers out there

Peanuts cartoon - writing expectationsand, in the immortal words of Jason Nesmith of Galaxy Quest:

tim allen as jason nesmith in galaxy quest never give up never surrender.png

(OO-er bonus: If you click on the image, it’ll take you to a YouTube clip of the very quote.)

 

 

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Be Gentle, Dear Reader: My First Public Short Story – Darker, Still

Darker, Still - cover Darker, Still is my first short story to go public. I’m hoping that, if you read it, you’ll be gentle in your criticism, dear reader (I know, I know: now, I’m asking for it – ahem). It’s a horror tale, with a dash of something else. Below is a blurb about it, followed by a brief excerpt for smacking your taste buds on.

If your madly generous heart and mind take an interest to read the entire story, I’ll happily send you a complimentary pdf copy for review. (You can read it for free on Kindle, but only if you have an Amazon Prime account.) Just leave a message in the Comments below, or zap me an email: bobby @ bobbygw .com and put the name of the story in the subject space, and I’ll get it right to you.

Heck, let’s go one step further (oh, yeh). If you possibly end up enjoying it enough to write a few words, or even a couple of sentences about it, on Amazon or Goodreads, then that’ll make me an eternally grateful happy bunny, and you an absolute bloody marvellous star. And if you read it and it’s not for you and your taste buds have gone to Accident & Emergency because they’ve experienced blunt-force trauma as a result, then know that you will be placed first in the queue to kick my bad-writing ass. But of course what really matters is your honest review.

How about this as a real thank you? In exchange for reading and reviewing it, I’ll even send you an original, handdrawn cartoon by yours truly. It is bound to be utterly juvenile and possibly Gonzo, and will be limited to the first 20 reviewers (yeh, right, you’re saying, as if I’m going to get that many), whether you like the story or not, godammit. (Of course, I’ll need your address, but I guarantee you 100% that it will never be used for any other communication from me or anyone else I know or don’t know, ever again, unless you masochistically insist.)

In the meantime, my apologies in advance if even the very idea of reading my story makes your eyes bleed and turns your lovely hairdo into a Donald Trump. On with the show.

Blurb

Darker, Still is the first horror story published by bobbygw. A tale of the unexpected, it plays with the ideas of the macabre. It speaks to our fear of darkness and the blackness of night, because when we are alone, in the dark, we all know it is then that things manifest from the void. If you find you’re too busy to find time to read a full-length horror story, but want to feel the fear in the time it takes to relax over a long, big cup of coffee, Darker, Still is just for you. Come on in, take the load off your feet and experience the darkness.

Excerpt: Opening lines

It is dark, but there is something darker in the room; darker, still, than the darkness which surrounds me in the night. It is here with me. It is waiting. I look across to it, but only and ever fleetingly. I am too afraid to look directly, to confront my fear with a gaze. I am too scared to stare. I am too fearful to look away for long.

My vision darts, flits through a line of sight, an arc that always, inevitably, comes to draw across the mass that is there. It is in one corner, a vague shape. It appears to be hulking over, hunched. Sometimes I think I see it move. Always, I think, it sits, crouches, it rests, knowingly. It is here for me or, rather, against. Sometimes, I hear what sounds like a rumbling; something deep-throated and rough. It is brief, as if an instant passing of a heavy-load truck, some distance away. But I feel the weight of it, still. Sometimes, it sounds like heavy air, pushing hard and thick through a tangle of wood and bush.

The sound of something low and limbed, pushing forward.

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Agota Kristof’s Trilogy of Novels: Remarkable fiction on loss, identity and the traumatic impact of war

Agota Kristof - book cover for her trilogy of novelsWritten by an unreliable narrator, the first part of this trilogy, The Notebook, won two prestigious European literary awards and was Hungarian writer Agota Kristof’s debut novel, published when the author was 51. It is, along with The Proof and The Third Lie, astonishing and brilliantly written in the tone of a moral fable. All the novels use beautifully simple, even clinical, language, from a first person viewpoint. What’s remarkable about them is the pure clarity of voice and language and – most importantly – morals without sentimentality, and the rejection of conventional, socially conformist behaviour.

With the onslaught of WW2, in an unnamed Hungary, identical twin brothers C(K)laus and Lucas record an ‘objective’ narrative of each day or days of significance that each agrees must be dependent solely on fact. This means that the brothers destroy any daily account that reflects judgement, whether implied or explicit, whether emotional, moral or even tonal in the words they use.

Only once they approve the best version of the day’s events, do they commit one as the permanent record of that day, to be written up in the Notebook.

Their purity of purpose and determination to lead lives grounded in their own way, extends to them deciding to strip themselves of emotion as they learn to disregard and be invulnerable to the devastating consequences of war. They also choose to act on occasion in ways that threaten and harm those who harm others, and always based upon their own distinctive, yet always logical, moral code. As a metaphor for the impact of war on children it’s a powerful and compelling one.

The more you read, the more troubling the stories of each novel, yet the more enriched and nuanced the overall story becomes.

The novels don’t shy away from the impact of war, psychological, social or physical. Limbs and people destroyed, antisemitism wreaked, loved ones blown apart. Life goes on, but always the factual narrative strips life of value and meaning as the war dehumanises and devastates. While the brother(s) survive(s), it’s clear not in any meaningful way living. There’s no joy felt or shared, no relief described, no coming to terms. The tone becomes ever more despairing and melancholic, as WW2 transitions into what is clearly meant to be Russia’s occupation of the country.

To describe the plots would be to undermine the intensity of loss, sadness, disorientation and trauma of war inflicted upon the narrator(s). What matters most is the extraordinary perspective of the brothers/unreliable narrator. It’s a troubling, powerful, moving story, driven by conflict, often disturbed and disorientating. It never resolves, which, given the subject of war and loss, is surely a morally honest conclusion and one free from false sentiment. Utterly compelling (especially The Notebook), the trilogy is highly recommended for lovers of great, modernist literature.

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Biography: Simone de Beauvoir by Ursula Tidd

book cover for Ursula Tidd's study of de BeauvoirI absolutely loved this study of one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant and famous women writers and activists. It is the single most trenchant and insightful of the intellectual biographical studies of de Beauvoir.

Nothing of value in de Beauvoir’s life is overlooked. Context and circumstances are fully considered and the widest range of resources and key relationships are thought through: the influence of her parents, sister, lovers, friends and, of course, Sartre. Besides which you’re made aware of her serious reading of intellectual writers and philosophers such as Levis-Strauss, Hegel, Heidegger, Aquinas, Marx, Husserl, Leibniz, Kant, and the existential phenomenologists. A lengthier work would of course have had the space to consider the reading she did for The Second Sex alone, that included hundreds of historians, anthropologists, biologists and sociologists, but this is meant to be a brief study and its success as such is not diminished by this.

Tidd also sheds light on some of the influences on her growing sense of intersectional feminism and the lesser known yet critical influences for her magnum opus on women, The Second Sex, by reference, for example, to her strong interest in Gunnar Myrdal’s classic 1944 study American Dilemma, on race in America.

She doesn’t shy away from the complex and often troubling relationship Beauvoir had with Sartre: namely the ways in which it was supportive of each other, while often exploiting the affection of other lovers and writing about them and betraying their lovers’ confidences to each other.

Importantly, she quotes well from all Beauvoir’s work, so you get to appreciate her strengths as a memoirist, diarist, philosopher, essayist and polemicist, novelist, travel and letter writer, feminist and political activist.

I’ve read the full-length biographies by Deirdre Blair and Toril Moi, and this short study says everything of value while missing nothing of significance.

The highest praise I can think of for a biography of a writer is to say that it excites and compels you to want to go and read or reread the writer’s work. This brilliant study merits that accolade.

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