Saturday, 14 January 2017

Lewis Carroll, 27 January 1832 - 14 January 1898

Walder Lewis Carroll in Guildford Surrey Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass
Alice through the looking glass, and me,
at Guildford Castle
Lewis Carroll  (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) died on this day in 1898. He might be best known for his stories about Alice and her adventures in Wonderland but he had other remarkable talents. He was also a mathematical lecturer at Oxford University.

So many stories and films were made about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and in recent years, there have been much speculation about Carroll's relationship with the real Alice, Alice Liddell. I support any new innovation in fiction but there is something about real people in fiction that doesn't appeal to me. Admittedly, there are those exceptional authors who do it right, and they manage to weave just about anything based on real people and create an engrossing mystery in the process. As Alice Liddell herself inspired the stories of Wonderland, in a way, Lewis Carroll falls under this category of using real people in fiction but he did so in the manner that we were caught in the intricacies of an extraordinary fantasy. Now, writing stories based on speculations of a real person's character doesn't really sound ethical to me, especially if such character is no longer around to defend himself, and people who knew him personally and had contact with him are also gone. Add to the fact that Carroll lived in an entirely different era, when things were vastly different that what was acceptable then wouldn't be today and vice versa.

Walder Lewis Carroll in Guildford Surrey Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass
Alice and M are staring at the White Rabbit (not in photo)
If you would like to get Lewis Carroll or Wonderland inspiration, Oxford is a great place to start. But as we're remembering his death anniversary, I'm sharing these pictures from 2014 of our visit to Guildford in Surrey, where Carroll wrote the second Alice book Through the Looking Glass. Here, Carroll bought The Chestnuts next to the castle ruins to serve as a home for his six unmarried sisters. Carroll lived the last year of his life in Guildford and he is also buried there.

Walder Lewis Carroll in Guildford Surrey Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll's (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) grave in Guildford, in the cemetery on The Mount, just inside the gates.
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Monday, 9 January 2017

Organising, cataloguing my library library classic books modern fiction
Typical room in a Victorian cottage :-p, i.e., our study
It has been my goal to organise my books, currently kept all over the house. This has been long overdue and I suppose it's a good way to start the year. Like any project, I can't just sit down and do this for one day so I shall work over a period of time. library classic books modern fiction

This shelf (some you see in twos)
are books/magazines that I’ve got a story
or essay in. I haven't written fiction in years.
I've got over 700 books left in the Philippines, acquired in my teens and early 20s. I believe I accumulated a lot of excellent titles, and not only for that age group. A lot of the books I have here in England belonged to my husband's grandfather, plenty of classics, so most of them are very old, and possibly rare. I'm not an expert but this might be a way to know. The modern editions are ones I collected since moving to Europe more than a decade ago, a lot of which are signed first editions.

I know what I've got but I haven't really got a list of the whole collection so this is my chance to maybe get rid of some books to make room for new ones. Another thing is my daughter is starting to read bigger books so it's time to literally get those Dickens down (they are high above the shelf).

I intend to photograph every book and/or every volume. I might also photograph the copyright page. I will document my progress over at instagram (apologies in advance to those who started following me, I'll crowd your feeds with pictures of books and related memorabilia). I hope to post every day. I'll probably put the books in boxes after photographing them and when all are accounted for, return them back to the shelves by author from A-Z. This is going to be a challenge as we don't have enough shelves.

My url is I'm very excited as I have neglected lots of hobbies since starting my own family, always thinking, someday, someday, when I have time. But you know what, one will never have time, you just have to make room. Join me, it's going to be fun! library classic books modern fiction
Some volumes of classic books that once belonged to my husband's grandfather.
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Friday, 6 January 2017

Brooklyn film with Saoirse Ronan (2015)

I won't deny that Ireland is my most favourite country in the world. There is that coming home feeling whenever I visit Ireland. Mere photos of the Cliffs of Moher sometimes reduce me to tears (I know, it's that bad).  In my youth, I avoided female authors but the late Maeve Binchy's stories about Ireland were ones I couldn't resist. I was deeply saddened when she died in 2012, where do I get that Irish story fix now?

In 2015, I saw the trailer for Brooklyn with the lovely and youthful Saoirse Ronan. I had spent the next few months looking for a skirt similar to one of those she wore in the film. I bought these three pictured below, just because every time, I went, "nope, still not right..."

Brooklyn 2015 Saoirse Ronan 20th Century Fox 1950s dresses skirts
Top left, Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, 2015, image from 20th Century Fox
I finally saw the film recently. Dresses from the 1950s always make me happy - those Peter Pan collars! But a big chunk of the film was a lot to think about. There was the innocence (of one who hasn't tried Italian food in her life -- such was the bigness of the world in the 1950s). There were the truths those of us living away from our mothers have to live with ("your poor sister who will spend the rest of her life taking care of your mother"). And more truths, like what Ellis’s (Saoirse Ronan's character) mother said towards the end, that "she doesn't have anyone now."

I don't remember seeing Emory Cohen in another film before and I feel rather old when this happens as I used to know everyone in films, and other very useless information. He reminded me of a young Andrew McCarthy, at least for this role. When Tony told Ellis that he loves her and she replied thank you for the evening, something pierced my heart, I was seeing a love-struck Salvatore, from Cinema Paradiso. They had moments but I didn't really feel the chemistry between these two. Still I'm a huge fan of Saoirse. I've seen her over the years, from Atonement to The Lovely Bones to Hanna, and know she could take on any role.

There were funny scenes, like that one about going to Coney Island and wearing sunglasses. But there was melancholy about and you know that this is the kind of story where the mood of the film is almost the antihero. I liked the way they introduced the character of Miss Kelly and how her trait changed the course of Ellis's future towards the end. You almost hate Ellis for paying attention to a new admirer upon her return to Ireland, but you can feel her confusion, why these opportunities only now, if they came before she wouldn't have had to go to Brooklyn. In the end, her leaving Ireland became the reason why she couldn't stay this time around.

This is a film about Ireland, about missing home, of futures changing, and there isn't really anything left except to choose. As Ellis said, "You'll feel so homesick that you'll want to die, and there's nothing you can do about it apart from endure it. But you will, and it won't kill you. And one day the sun will come out - you might not even notice straight away, it'll be that faint. And then you'll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who's only yours. And you'll realize... that this is where your life is." My apologies if I will, again, compare this to my being a Filipina in England. It is very similar, but I can thankfully say there was no need to endure anything when I moved away. But I would never forget that I also moved from one good place to another, and this is the reason why I'll never stop missing my home country.

I wouldn't mind living in the 1950s but one thing I am grateful for our world today is how one could easily see the world and also how the world is brought to us through food, films, music, etc. in an instant. Before the internet, long distance relationships were very hard so one could just imagine how impossible they were 60 or so years ago. I guess I'm finally over the skirt search after watching the film. That green coat, though! I haven't read the novel by Colm Tóibín but based on what I've seen in the film, yes, Maeve Binchy could have written this story.

Brooklyn, 2015, image from 20th Century Fox
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Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Recommended booksellers online: Durdles Books

I've had a few rants in this blog but elsewhere (Reviewcentre or Trustpilot), there's nothing I love more than to leave positive feedback whenever I can as buyers mostly only leave comments after an unpleasant experience, which is not fair to the merchant. I bought a book from Durdles Books before Christmas. The book I'd received had an inscription that wasn't in the description. I sent them an e-mail which they immediately replied to and graciously sent me another copy. Have a look at their website and selection over here.

Happy New Year, and happy reading!

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