andrewgodsell

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Archive for the tag “Alice in Wonderland”

A Great Idea for a Story #Asperger

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsessive-Compulsive-Asperger-Andrew-Godsell-ebook/dp/B01MSTMUOQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480596376&sr=1-2

Re-Reading

One of the more positive aspects of my being an Asperger is an enthusiasm for stories – they feed an already lively imagination.

Stories are obviously central to my work as an author.

Beyond this, I take delight in piecing together links between my favourite books, films, television programmes, and music.  

The following piece, simply entitled Story-Telling, tries to convey the process.

“Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop”. This advice was given by a King to a White Rabbit, during a bizarre trial, staged near the conclusion of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (published in 1865). There is a lot to be said for starting stories other than at the beginning – I often begin in the middle, hop backwards to the opening, and meander through several digressions, before reaching something like an ending. The curious world of Wonderland has been an unlikely influence on my story-telling, as an imaginary counterpoint to the facts I normally rely upon. Following this short diversion, it is time to mention I have been fascinated by stories for almost as long as I can remember. Good stories entertain and inspire us, often providing vital insights into people’s lives. Stories can be fact or fiction – and sometimes a hybrid.

Shortly before becoming a teenager, I moved from stories aimed at children to reading books primarily written for an adult audience. Football and history books were consumed with particular enthusiasm. I discovered the James Bond novels and stories, written by Ian Fleming, and read all of these during a spell of about a year. Bond led an intriguing life as a spy, with missions in exotic locations, while Fleming brilliantly described the thoughts and actions of the character – including Bond’s shower and breakfast routines, plus his appreciation of fine food, sophisticated drinks, and beautiful women.

Besides being an avid reader, I appreciated other types of story. A notable example was television situation comedies, with great programmes from the BBC in the 1970s including Are You Being Served?, Butterflies, Fawlty Towers, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, and The Good Life. I also enjoyed comedy sketch programmes, such as Morecambe and Wise, The Dick Emery Show, and The Two Ronnies. The part of the latter show where Ronnie Corbett would sit in an armchair, telling a joke, surrounded by several minutes of tangential rambling, irritated me at the time. In retrospect, Ronnie Corbett’s style of story-telling appears to have had a great influence upon me.

In my youth, I planned to develop the enthusiasm for books, by becoming a writer. I started to read the works of George Orwell, who remains my favourite author, due to his profound ideas, expressed in a conversational prose style. Besides books published in his lifetime, I enjoyed The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, a posthumously-compiled four volume set. The series opened with Why I Write, an essay from 1946, in which Orwell gave a summary of his literary career. Orwell argued that writers are motivated by four factors, the first of these being “sheer egoism”, caused by a wish to be recognised as a clever person. Next came “aesthetic enthusiasm”, which could follow from appreciation of external beauty, the taking of pleasure in the usage of words, and a wish to share experience. The third factor was “historical impulse”, with an author finding facts to be used for posterity. Orwell’s final motive was “political purpose”, with writers seeking to be an influence on people’s ideas about the direction of their society.

What is my motivation as a writer? I think – we cannot always be certain about motives – that the central factor is a wish for communication. I feel a need to connect my enthusiasms, ideas, and knowledge with those of fellow human beings – often the effects of Asperger Syndrome make it more comfortable to do this through writing compared with other interaction. I also seek to give permanent record to experiences, many of which would otherwise be forgotten – probably a manifestation of my OCD. Enjoyment in the creation of a piece of writing is followed by a sense of satisfaction when it is published, read by others, and discussed. From the preceding sentences, it appears the second and third of Orwell’s themes are predominant for me. I must confess that ego plays a big (too big?) part, while politics has often been a feature of my writing. My books may appear diverse in nature – spanning history, politics, football, and autobiography – but they form part of a logical progression, as writing is interweaved with other activities. The books and experiences are twin facets of the developing story of my life, with personal activity placed in a wider context (I could say “the bigger picture”).

I have developed a role as something of a raconteur, offering funny (sometimes slightly exaggerated) tales of my experiences. Stories are told, in animated fashion, at social gatherings, sometimes fuelled by alcohol, although audience participation (or even heckling) often proves a more effective stimulant. I have a love of trivia, and thirst for knowledge, taking delight at links between odd scraps of information. Interesting turns of phrase are often adapted to new purposes in my writing. I also make (I think) good use of irony.

Inspiration arrives from diverse sources. One of my heroes is Bruce Springsteen, many of whose lyrics take the form of extended narrative. Bruce often tells thoughtful, or comic, stories to introduce songs during concerts. Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, released in 1978, was re-packaged in 2010 within The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story, a stunning set, in which three CDs plus three DVDs are housed within an extensive book – itself placed within a box. Bruce’s masterpiece, a 43 minute album, has been expanded into discs that stretch to eight and a half hours of music and film. This is story-telling in the grand manner. Another great musical act are the Velvet Underground, an American band, managed at one point by Andy Warhol, who (supposedly) produced their debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, and (definitely) contributed the front cover banana design. The Velvets sold few records during their creative peak, in the 1960s, but have built a legendary reputation, as innovators who influenced countless other artists. One of the strangest recordings by the group, and among the first I heard, as a teenager, is The Gift. A freakish short story, packed with telling incidental detail, is recited (not sung) against the backdrop of a monotonous piece of music. It is a work of genius. The words of The Gift were written by Lou Reed, and narrated by John Cale, in his native Welsh accent, this being an incongruous delivery of a tale taking place in the USA. Several years later, Cale produced Patti Smith’s astonishing debut album, Horses – which takes us to a land where poetry merges with punk rock. Patti Smith subsequently co-wrote Because the Night with Bruce Springsteen. In 1981 I read Dave Marsh’s Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story. This included a reference to the novel You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe, which prompted me to read the latter book in 1984, when it was re-issued by Penguin. Wolfe’s novel, based on his experiences as an author, is outstanding, although rather patchy – it was compiled by an editor, Edward C Aswell, from an unfinished manuscript after the writer’s death. One section of Wolfe’s novel originated as a short story, with the clever title A Great Idea For a Story.

Hopping back over the Atlantic, from the USA to Britain, the television dramas and films of Stephen Poliakoff throw eloquent light on contemporary British society, characteristically featuring great ensemble acting, sumptuous settings, and atmospheric music. Poliakoff’s achievements as a writer and director include Perfect Strangers, depicting a large family gathering, with genealogy a major factor in a drama where secrets are unveiled, and Shooting the Past, which revolves around a photo library. Alongside film, I enjoy live theatre. One outstanding piece is Les Miserables, with dramatic action, and brilliant songs, making up for an almost impenetrable plot, set in nineteenth century France. I generally dislike films that are musicals, as the format appears false, but find the theatrical equivalent entertaining, with productions of Cats, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (from Ian Fleming’s non-Bond novel), Peter Pan, and Wicked springing to mind. Non-musical plays I recollect as being impressive range from an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the modern O Go My Man, written by Stella Feehily. The latter is a comedy about relationships (the title being an anagram of monogamy), set in Dublin. In the novel of Frankenstein, the (self-taught) monster reads books which include The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In the real world, I have read Goethe’s amazing epistolary novel (a true original), plus his two part poetic play, Faust. Goethe worked on Faust at intervals across a span of 58 years, and referred to this masterpiece as “a private fairy tale”, having modestly decided the second part would not be published until after his death.

The oldest surviving stories in the world are The Iliad and The Odyssey, by Homer, possibly dating from around 700 BC. It is arguable that Homer was not really an author in the modern sense, given that his works were composed, and delivered, as oral poems. In presenting the adventures of Odysseus, Homer uses disjointed chronology, in an account full of repetition and circumlocution. This is a type of narrative that engages the attention of the reader. In the twentieth century, Homer’s The Odyssey provided a basis for Ulysses by James Joyce, who moved the action to Dublin. In a similar way, the novella Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, set in the Congo, was adapted to a new setting, with a fictionalisation of the Vietnam War in Apocalypse Now, a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Another of Coppola’s works is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which rates as one of the best cinematic portrayals of the tales of Dracula. The original Dracula novel by Stoker, set in Romania and Britain, during the late nineteenth century, is full of political symbolism and repressed eroticism. In 1993 I started to write a novel, (imaginatively) entitled Dracula, advancing the story first set out by Stoker, a century earlier, to the contemporary world. My novel is uncompleted, and dormant, awaiting possible revival in the future – just like a sleeping vampire – but that is another story for another day.

Great contemporary novelists include David Lodge, author of the academic romances Small World and Nice Work, plus Martin Amis, whose London Fields, published in 1989, looked ahead to a turn of millennium that is now part of our past. I have recently discovered the brilliance of Julian Barnes, through his Booker Prize winner The Sense of an Ending (2011), and flown back to Flaubert’s Parrot (1984). There is also A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (1989), a “novel” that is actually a cycle of linked short stories, mixed with some factual elements. The concept is original, and the book features some brilliant story-telling by Barnes, as various themes echo through the pages (I wish I could manage something like that). Another unusual novel is How to be Both by Ali Smith (2014), which features two stories – one set in the fifteenth century, the other contemporary – that overlap and complement each other. Half of the copies of the book were printed with one story at the beginning, while the other half of the copies start with the other story. Much earlier, the gentle writing of Henry James brought us The Bostonians and The Portrait of a Lady, described as “the two most brilliant novels in the language” by F R Leavis, one of Britain’s most influential literary critics – he strangely received a mention in the film of Bridget Jones’s Diary. In 1984 Merchant Ivory Productions released a film adaptation of The Bostonians – starring Christopher Reeve, Vanessa Redgrave, and Madeleine Potter. It is a fascinating work, in which the (admittedly unappealing) character of Basil Ransome seeks both love and success as a writer, amidst Henry James’ political satire and subtle comedy – “The Master” was a consummate story-teller. Five years earlier, during 1979, the same film production team had offered The Europeans, a dramatisation of another novel by James. Merchant Ivory have also filmed three of the novels of E M Forster, A Room with a View, Maurice, and Howards End (the latter being the book that gave us the phrase “only connect”). Moving from the sublime to the surreal, another cherished piece is The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien, a delightful fantasy about strange creatures. I was enchanted by a work that Tolkien introduces with the words “This is a story of long ago”. It also appears to be a tale from a far away land, judging by the strange maps, drawn by Tolkien, that appear in The Hobbit.

I take pleasure from the physical feeling of a well-produced book, preferring a solid hardback to the less sturdy paperback. There is sensual delight in the freshness of a new book, but I also enjoy the mature scent of an older book. In many cases, books are enhanced by attractive presentation. During the 1990s, I was a member of the Folio Society, which issues works of excellent quality. Folio publications I have read include The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, Memoirs of My Life by Edward Gibbon, and The Folio Anthology of Autobiography, edited by Angela Thirlwell. Another outstanding Folio book is Columbus on Himself by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, which combines extracts from the writings of Christopher Columbus with biographical commentary. A visionary explorer, Columbus was also an eccentric, and often slipped into delusion. I am fascinated by the story of Columbus’ discovery of the Americas in 1492, and his attempt “to learn the secrets of this world”. Back in 1993 I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland plus the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, And What Alice Found There. The Folio Society edition of Lewis Carroll’s linked novels, the latter of which places Alice’s experiences within an oblique chess problem, consists of books with matching design (including blue hardback cover with a red cloth spine) presented in a blue slipcase. Renewed mention of Alice echoes the start of the current essay. I have reached the point where I will stop this example of story-telling, but elsewhere countless tales continue to develop, and be told, in a process full of wonder.

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How Does an Author Promote Their Book?

15 cover 2014

 

I have recently published my first novel. This is something I have wanted to do for many years. Part of the reason for delay is that I have been busy writing factual books, one of which is entitled Fifteen Minutes of Fame. The title is ironic, as obscurity has outweighed any limited fame in the life, and writing career, chronicled in that book. The title of this Blog piece deliberately ends with a question mark. I am not so much offering advice on how to promote a book, as asking myself, and anybody reading this, how is it done?

Belief in the quality of my writing has always been dwarfed by a lack of confidence in promoting the books, and myself. I think a lot of this is due to my struggling with Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD. Here is a link to something I wrote a few months ago about how these things affect me. It was one of my more popular posts on this Blog – with two people commenting on it.

https://andrewgodsell.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/aspergers-syndrome-and-obsessive-compulsive-disorder/

In the case of my novel, there is the complicating factor of my not even being sure that publishing it, without a pseudonym, is a good idea. It is my first foray in the world of….(dare I say it?)….erotica. The whole book is not erotica. There is a lot of gentle comedy, updating the tales in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books to the present day. There may even be aspirations to literary fiction. Most people, this generally includes myself, do not talk openly about their sexuality, but people are equally fascinated by the concept. I ask myself, will the book be welcomed as an interesting piece of work? Will the “oddball” nature of my novel cause people to take my other writing less seriously? Or will it be largely ignored? At present I have lacked the confidence to explicitly tell family and friends, who know I have been writing the book, the direction in which it has gone. Indeed, in the real world, I have not even told people that it was published as an Ebook on Amazon Kindle a few months ago. If the book takes off in any way, I plan to publish a paperback version, with some pictures. Moving away from the real world, the book is starting to have a small presence in Cyberspace, with some people buying it on Kindle, and extracts recently placed on this Blog receiving some “likes”. Over on Twitter, a friend who spotted the book was surprised to say the least, their response being:

Blimey! #notfortheeasilyshocked #Isurvived

https://twitter.com/mayyourhope/status/754345471963901952

Much of my output has been self-published, but a couple of books have been issued by mainstream publishers. Both of these were books of football history which, after an encouraging start, lost some impact as they became out of date. In the first case, the publisher went bankrupt, while in the second the book was quietly allowed to fade away. Like many writers, I have the ongoing difficulty of getting a publisher without having a literary agent, while attempts to get a literary agent are stalled by my relative lack of prior success getting a publisher!.

It is often said that many writers have a large ego about their writing, combined with a lack confidence about promoting themselves. The outlook of the muddled creator of a piece of art has been likened, by various people, to famous lines from W B Yeats:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity

The anxiety I have always felt, due to my mental health issues, has made dealing with publishers on a personal level difficult. Similarly I have attempted to sell my books in person at book fairs, but lacked the confidence to make much of this. I am good at writing and emailing press releases, but terrible at following up with telephone calls to real life journalists. More than 30 years after I started writing books, I am often overwhelmed by a feeling that it will be difficult to be a major success. Should I continue to follow my big dream? Should I settle for the limited level of literary success I have been able to enjoy? In an attempt to prompt myself to be more active, I am writing this short piece, with the intention of updating it as things progress.

I hope to return later with more to report.

Revolver and Sgt Pepper – a Beatles Fantasy Album

Revolver

One of the enduring debates among fans of the Beatles tries to answer a question, which is their best album? Ultimately it is difficult, probably impossible, to quantify this. So much of the judgement is subjective, with fans arguing the case for their individual favourite. Over the years, my mind has hopped in assessing the relative merits of Revolver, Sgt Pepper, and Abbey Road, but Revolver has generally been my favourite Beatles album. Indeed it is the only record I have felt inspired to review on Amazon – perhaps I should do more reviews. In the piece, posted in 2012, among other things, he said he said: “I cannot give the Revolver album anything other than five stars. It is acclaimed (by the experts?) as perhaps the Beatles second-best album, behind Sgt Pepper. The overall quality of songs is better on Revolver, with great variety, building into a showcase of the brilliance of the Beatles. Besides Paul’s majestic Eleanor Rigby, and the novelty of Ringo singing Yellow Submarine, there is an amazing trio from John – I’m Only Sleeping, She Said She Said, and Tomorrow Never Knows. George offers a couple of great songs in Taxman and I Want to Tell You. The studio experimentation of Sgt Pepper began a few months earlier in the Revolver sessions”. Four years after the review, I should add that a notable part of the appeal of Revolver is the way in which it displays an eclectic mix of styles, but also has unity, powered the guitar and drums sound common to the uptempo numbers, and dreamy lyrics that flow from Eleanor Rigby to Tomorrow Never Knows. The album title is a clever reflection of the way in which records revolve. There is also the original cover, with the psychedelic collage by Klaus Voorman on the front, and a photo of the band on the back – both in stark black and white. Revolver still sounds and feels modern – 50 years after it was recorded.

For many people, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the best album ever made by any rock artist. For me, the album does not quite match the claims for it. The concept is an imaginary concert, in 1967, by a band celebrating 20 years of performing. The band therefore began in 1947, which would explain the old-time music hall element of the album, but they now appear to also be embracing new-fangled psychedelic rock. The concert setting, with audience sounds featuring in the first two and last two songs, just disappears in between. There is a small hubbub of people talking, and laughing, at the end of Within You Without You, but this does not appear to be the crowd audible elsewhere on the record. The Indian mysticism of that song, along with its rather long and droning nature, seems out of place with the upbeat lyrics and melodies on most of the record. The end of Good Morning Good Morning also does not fit. It has been praised as a nod to the end of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, but the succession of noises conjurs up visions of a horde of wild animals running across the stage at the Sgt Pepper concert – something that just would not happen.

Several times, over the last few years, I have attempted to create a playlist that serves as a fantasy album, bringing together the best of Revolver and Sgt Pepper. Although the albums were created less than a year apart, the differences in style make a synthesis a challenge. After many attempts, I have recently put together something that, I feel, really works. Hoping to share my enthusiasm, and possibly get feedback from other fans, I set out the track listing in this Blog post.

I decided the parameters should be:

1 The equivalent of an LP of about 45 minutes, drawing equally from the two original albums, plus the amazing songs from the sessions that were released separately as singles.

2 A sequencing in which no two successive songs have the same lead vocalist – taking a lead from Revolver

3 Omission of the Sgt Pepper concert theme, focussing instead on a flow of the best quality songs from the two sessions.

Here is my selection, entitled Kaleidoscope:

Side 1 (approximately 22 minutes)

1 Eleanor Rigby. Starting with one of the greatest songs from the relevant sessions, and a minimalist piece, with vocals from Paul accompanied by a double string quartet.

2 I’m Only Sleeping. The song that follows Eleanor Rigby on Revolver, as John tells a tale at the point where sleep becomes awakening.

3 Fixing a Hole. The first step into the surreal world of Sgt Pepper, with a song from Paul that complements the preceding effort from John, and then gives way to another set of questions in the next selection.

4 I Want to Tell You. The first track here sung by George. An often-neglected marvel, tucked away near the end of Revolver, with that album’s trademark sound, leads neatly into the next piece.

5 Paperback Writer. The A side of the single featuring two songs recorded at the Revolver sessions, but omitted from the album. Paul’s tale about the wonders of story-telling flows towards the second Sgt Pepper track here.

6 Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. John’s surreal tale of “a girl with kaleidoscope eyes” in a strange land, inspired by the Alice in Wonderland novels of Lewis Carroll.

7 Yellow Submarine. Moving from the boat on a river of the previous song, we navigate the sea in a submarine, with a lovely sing-along, led by Ringo.

8 Strawberry Fields Forever. Side 1 concludes with a song from the Double A side single released ahead of Sgt Pepper, containing songs that George Martin subsequently said should have appeared on that album. John’s wander through Strawberry Fields is a wonderful piece of nostalgia, combined with psychedelia.

Side 2 (approximately 23 minutes)

9 Penny Lane. The second half of the album opens with the other side of the double A single, this being Paul’s celebration of ordinary English life. Towards the end of the song there is mention of “pouring rain”, which takes us to the next track.

10 Rain. The B side of Paperback Writer is an under-rated gem, a brilliant burst of psychedelic rock, with lead vocals by John.

11 Good Day Sunshine. The rain gives way to sun, and Paul brightens the mood with a song about the joys of love.

12 Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite. John copied the lyrics from an 1843 poster advertising a circus. This song ends side 1 of Sgt Pepper, and paves the way here for something based on the start of the other side of that album.

13 Within You Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows. Although I do not think that Within You Without You works on Sgt Pepper, the mashup with Tomorrow Never Knows, the finale of Revolver, on the Love album, definitely deserves a place in this fantasy compilation. George and Giles Martin merged two songs of Eastern thought into a splendid idea, with the start of John’s Tomorrow Never Knows vocal leading into George singing Within You Without You, while the drumming from the first song strengthens the music of the latter.

14 She Said She Said. John’s Acid trip in the previous track is followed by another such experience in this song, as he now hallucinates about a mystery woman. Indeed she could be an adult equivalent to the girl in Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.

15 Lovely Rita. Paul in turn has a moment with a lady, in circumstances that are very different from his narration of the tale of Eleanor Rigby. Musically the surreal sound of Lovely Rita points to the next song here.

16 A Day in the Life. Our Kaleidoscope concludes with the final song of the Sgt Pepper album, on which the musical accompaniment of Eleanor Rigby has grown to four Beatles and a 40 piece orchestra. For many people, including myself, A Day in the Life is the Beatles’ undisputed masterpiece, as a series of psychedelic dreams are sung by John, with an interlude from Paul, while the music builds from a quiet opening to a dramatic finale.

Alice’s Adventures in #Erotica

Alice cover 5Hello – well the first extract from my novel seemed to stimulate some interest in my Blog. Here is another piece, aimed at keeping up the enthusiasm. 

Alice paused, and the Walrus told her: “Yes we know about Nessie. She is definitely real. Over a thousand years old, and still going – still swimming the loch. She even found an underground channel, a few years back, and swam down from Loch Ness to our lake here in Wonderland, we now call it Loch Less. There is a committee trying to get us twinned with Newcastle, where they have Loch Geordie.”

The Mouse asked “How are you getting on now, my dear?” turning to Alice as it spoke.

“As wet as ever,” said Alice in a melancholy tone “it does not seem to dry me at all.”

“In that case,” said the Dodo solemnly, rising to its feet, “I move that the meeting adjourn, for the immediate adoption of more energetic remedies. The best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.”

Alice asked to be reminded what a caucus was.

The Mouse said “We are still with politics, it is an inner group that tries to run a political party.”

Alice responded “I seem to recall it is different from a cactus.”

The Dodo intervened, “Ah….the caucus joke….almost as old as the time I supposedly became extinct.”

The Dodo then gave the floor back to the Mouse, who announced “A cactus has all the pricks on the outside”.

Alice, the Mouse, and the Dodo collapsed with laughter. The other assembled creatures looked confused, and felt excluded from the joke.

Alice mused to herself about a caucus. On one level, the pricks inside might be thought of as fools. On the other hand, there was something to be said for having a prick inside. Last week a rather handsome man, called John Thomas, had got his prick inside Alice, and she had certainly enjoyed that. A few minutes later she had invited him in again. Alice had met John at a party. The attraction had been mutual, and rapid. It was a very laid-back party at the house of a friend of a friend of Alice. John was also a friend of a friend, but a different set of friends. After they had sorted out who was who, Alice and John flirted, joked, and snogged. They went for a walk in the garden, and found that several of the party guests had gone for a late night swim in the pool. There was not actually much swimming being done, but there were a couple of couples doing some shagging. Alice and John stripped naked, and hopped into the pool. Alice said “I have never been fucked in a swimming pool, until now – I hope.”

“Me too” replied John, and he soon slipped his hard prick into her wet cunt.

After having sex in the pool, Alice and John made their way into the garden shed, where John – in response to an invitation – made his way into Alice again.

Alice remembered it had been a very good night. Perhaps the best since….

Rising from her reverie, Alice asked “What is a Caucus-race?” Not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo and Mouse had paused, as if they both thought that somebody / some other creature (delete as applicable when you can decide) ought to speak, and none of the others seemed inclined to say anything.

The Dodo said “The best way to explain it is to do it.” First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no “One, two, three, and away,” but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out “The race is over!” and they all crowded round, asking who had won.

The Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought. It sat for a long time, while the rest waited in silence. At last, the diplomatic Dodo said, “everybody has won.”

Reverting to an earlier subject of discussion, the Mouse said that Alice could borrow the history book to read some more later.

Alice thanked him, but said the problem was “I do not have a handbag to put the book in.”

The Mouse put the book on an empty shelf. The shelf had just appeared – did it just arrive from nowhere? Yes it probably did, as when Alice looked again a moment later, there was another book there, entitled News From Nowhere.

Alice pondered the lack of a handbag. How would she carry things – if she collected any things (anything?) – around wherever it was that she now was? That is if she was to be here or there any longer? Alice had a think about the things she normally carried in her handbag. There was her purse, phone, make-up, tissues, and what else? Boiled sweets, sometimes. Well actually more common items might have been those things known as “women’s items.”

The Mouse asked Alice if she could make up a story or poem.

Alice hesitated, and then said “I think I made up a poem in my head earlier, but it was a bit of a muddle.”

In response to requests from several of her audience, Alice recited her poem:

Weaving a tapestry, the Lady of Shalott

Visions reflected through a glass onion

Catch a glimpse of a fair maiden

Her feet sore from bunions 

Fix your mind on something absurd

End of the poem, here is the last word

 

Alice’s Adventures in Erotica

Dear Reader

I have published several books, and enjoyed a bit of success, but this is my first venture into a world of erotica. This book is a bit different, just like my eccentric personality. Most of it is a fantasy from Wonderland. Some of it stems from fantasies about the real world. There are even curious bits extended from real events. I like to put my finger on things – and find the right spot. I hope you have fun scrolling down (and up and down) on your Kindle. I have taken pleasure in writing this story, and hope that you will find it a stimulating read.

Best wishes

Alice cover 5

 

 

The above is my introduction to my first novel, published as an Ebook on Amazon Kindle. After much hesitation, I have decided to publish this piece of erotica with my own name, rather than a pseudonym. It should stand or fall with a real name behind it – a bit like my Twitter account! Besides erotica, there is an attempt at literary fiction. Here is an extract – from one of the tamer parts of the book.

“An enchanted garden, and a golden afternoon” Alice declared. Alice was sitting in the grounds of Strawberry Fields Forever, a National Trust stately home, with her friend Sadie. The house, situated at Lyndhurst, a quaint village (or was it a town?) in the New Forest, retained the decor of the late 1960s, when it had been owned by a wealthy hippie, Mean Mr Mustard, and his sister, Polythene Pam. Alice and Sadie had just eaten lunch, each having chicken salad followed by strawberries and cream, washed down with quite a bit of wine. Alice checked the incoming texts on her mobile phone, replied to those requiring a reply, updated her Facebook status, and skimmed through the latest happenings, plus thoughts from dozens of people, on Twitter. This brought her up to date, if only for a moment, in the ever-moving world of mobile communication. Putting these things aside, Alice sat in the sun with Sadie, enjoying a rare moment of carefree relaxation. Sadie mentioned something about the surroundings. The grass was green, the leaves on the trees swayed in a breeze, and the sky was blue. Sadie started to read The Diary of a Nobody, by the Grossmith brothers, a delightful Victorian novel, brought to life with lots of hand-drawn illustrations. Sadie was looking for inspiration, as she hoped to become a paperback writer.

Alice plugged herself in to her IPod, and listened to songs by the Beatles – including a lot of tracks from Love, the surreal remix and mashup album. Towards the end of the glorious 80 second edit of Glass Onion, Alice closed her eyes, saying she was “resting” them, and dozed. Entering the place where wakefulness drifts into sleep, when in bed at night, Alice often experienced something she called a “mini-dream,” a dream of just a few seconds, from which she would exit, briefly awaking, before falling properly asleep – her “golden slumbers.” Alice had a “mini-dream” about eating giant strawberries, and told the detail to Sadie, who seemed unimpressed.

Alice drifted on to the image of a White Rabbit, seen wandering the grounds of Strawberry Fields Forever. The Rabbit seemed almost human, as it was wearing clothes, and muttering something to itself about the passage of time. The Rabbit even took a watch from a jacket pocket, and announced the time as “fifteen minutes,” without specifying any relationship to an hour of the clock.

Intrigued by this, Alice wandered towards the Rabbit, which hopped through a gap in a hedge. Alice noticed a group of four beetles, as she continued to pursue the Rabbit, which jumped into a narrow tunnel. In a moment of spontaneity, Alice squeezed into the tunnel, and felt herself to be moving at great speed. The strange thing was that she was not falling downwards, instead she was being sent in a roughly horizontal direction, apparently by some unseen wind or other power, through an ever-twisting tunnel. Alice felt a mixture of fear and exhilaration, as if on a rollercoaster ride, and wondered where she might arrive. Perhaps the other side of the world, or was this a route across the universe into another dimension? How long would the ride take? The answer to the latter question came just a couple of minutes after entry to the tunnel. All of a sudden, the helter skelter journey stopped, as the tunnel reached a fork, and the power pushing Alice forward stopped. Alice took the left prong of the fork, having seen the Rabbit do this. Passing a sign advising that this was Penny Lane, Alice walked along a wide, empty, corridor, and found herself to be alone. Where had the Rabbit gone to? Where was Alice? Was this a place far away from the lonely people?

In a dash to follow the Rabbit, Alice had left her handbag, with her mobile phone and money in it, by the chair in the garden of Strawberry Fields Forever. In any case, she did not know where she was, and whether her phone and money would be of any use in this new place. More importantly, how could she get back to where she had been? “Help!” Alice whispered to herself. As she walked what appeared to be a long and winding road, Alice was reduced to tears.

Alice walked further along the corridor. Having seen a table in the distance, Alice walked towards this, and found a small golden key placed on top of the table. There were several doors leading off the corridor, but Alice could not get the key to open any of them. Then she saw a single small curtain in the corridor, and moved this to reveal a small door. The key opened this door, leading into a smaller corridor. Alice crouched down low, but the corridor was too small for her to be able to safely enter. Alice wished she could navigate the corridor, as it led to the loveliest garden she had ever seen – or imagined. The garden had tangerine trees, marmalade sky, cellophane flowers of yellow and green. It all seemed splendidly surreal, and reminded Alice of something. Then she realised, and said “It is Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds brought to life.” Alice was experiencing a day in the life of a wonderland. Suddenly, as if moved within a giant kaleidoscope, the scene shifted, and Alice could see a walrus and some eggmen, sitting in an English garden, waiting for the sun. “I am the Walrus” reflected Alice, meaning a song, as she did not really think she had turned into a walrus. Actually Alice wished she was a rather naughty girl, the sort who would let her knickers down, just like sexy Sadie, after the fancy dress party, as they shared a brief moment in the park. 

 

The Beatles in Wonderland

A couple of years ago, I wrote An Enchanted Garden, a short story transferring the opening of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) into a contemporary adult tale. My story included many references to lyrics by the Beatles, with the modern-day Alice listening to their music on her Ipod, as events began in the garden of Strawberry Fields Forever, a National Trust home located in my imagination. Recent work, expanding the story into a novel, set me thinking about the way in which the Beatles were influenced by Carroll’s two Alice books, with the original being followed by Through the Looking-Glass, And What Alice Found There (1871).

Beatles Paperback Writer

 

My starting point was a thought that four songs by the Beatles showed clear influences from Alice.

1 I Am the Walrus (1967) draws upon Carroll’s tale of the Walrus and the Carpenter. The eggman could be Humpty Dumpty, although John Lennon recalled a strange practice enjoyed by Eric Burden involving eggs.

2 The Long and Winding Road (1969) has the lyric “the wild and windy night has left a pool of tears”, echoing the Pool of Tears episode in Alice.

3 Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (1967) tells the tale of a girl in a surreal land. In contrast to speculation that the song was influenced by LSD, Lennon explained that the title came from a painting that his son, Julian, brought home from nursery school. When Lennon expanded the contents of the picture into a song, he added elements from Carroll, explaining “It was Alice in the boat. She is buying an egg and it turns into Humpty Dumpty. The woman serving in the shop turns into a sheep and the next minute they are rowing in a rowing boat somewhere and I was visualising that”. This is the Wool and Water episode of Looking Glass. The song also includes “newspaper taxis” plus “a train in a station with plasticine porters with looking glass ties”. This follows the Looking-Glass Insects chapter, where Alice goes on a train journey, sharing a carriage with a man dressed as a newspaper, a goat, and….a beetle. Lennon’s Lucy would be mentioned again, in I Am the Walrus, recorded a few months later.

4 Cry Baby Cry (1968) draws on the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence, but there are elements from the Pig and Pepper chapter in Alice, with a duchess and a crying baby. The song has the Duchess of Kirkaldy arriving late for tea, suggesting the Tea Party in Alice. John’s Cry Baby Cry ends with the Can You Take Me Back fragment from Paul McCartney, and it couId be that this expresses a wish to move from Wonderland back to reality. Conversely Paul might hope to move away from reality, and back into a nursery rhyme tale?

Three of these four songs (the exception being Paul’s The Long and Winding Road) were predominantly written by John Lennon.

In the old days, I would have pursued this line of thought through books about the Beatles. Nowadays a look around the Internet, following the lines suggested by Google, makes the search for information a lot quicker. One of the best pieces I found was John in Wonderland by Edgar O Cruz, who suggests songs that were – or may have been – influenced by Carroll, which are in turn added to my list:

http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/2014/10/12/1379108/john-wonderland

5 Do You Want to Know a Secret (1963) was inspired by the Wishing Well song in the Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which seems to me a bit out of place here, lacking a direct flow from Carroll. As far as I can tell, the Alice books only include the word secret once, in the Queen Alice chapter of Through the Looking Glass.

6 I’ll Get You (1963) is another song that Cruz only links to Carroll in general terms. On the other hand, McCartney made a direct connection in later years, saying “To me and John, though I can’t really speak for him, words like ‘imagine’ and ‘picture’ were from Lewis Carroll.  This idea of asking your listener to imagine, ‘Come with me if you will…’, ‘Enter please into my…’, ‘Picture yourself in a boat…’ It drew you in.  It was a good little trick, that.  Both of us loved Lewis Carroll and the Alice books and were fascinated by his surreal world so this was a nice song to write”.

7 Yellow Submarine (1966) does not have any direct lyrical origin in Carroll, but the song evokes a fantasy land for children. The song would in turn feature in an animated Beatles film of the same title, released in 1968. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was another song featured in the film.

8 Strawberry Fields Forever (1967) has lyrics in which Cruz hears an echo of Carroll. He says “The theme of loss in Strawberry Fields Forever is similar to the book’s ‘going down’ device” as Alice slips through the Rabbit Hole. The Beatles’ lyric “It doesn’t matter much to me” follows “It didn’t much matter which way she put it” in Alice.

9 Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite (1967) is a song in the tradition of Carroll’s poems. Lennon copied the lyrics from an 1843 poster advertising a circus – having bought this from an antique shop when the Beatles were filming a promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever.

10 Magical Mystery Tour (1967) is the title song of a Beatles fantasy film, which was influenced by Carroll, and featured I Am the Walrus.

11 Glass Onion (1968) is a surreal story, which includes references to five previous songs by the Beatles, two of which we have already encountered here – Fixing a Hole, Strawberry Fields Forever, I Am the Walrus, Fool on the Hill, and Lady Madonna.

12 Helter Skelter (1968) features the lyric “Will you, won’t you want me to make you” which Paul appears to have adapted from The Lobster Quadrille’s “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance?”. I also think that the “I’m coming down fast” part of the song could echo Alice falling down the Rabbit Hole.

13 Across the Universe (1968) includes the phrase “pool of sorrows”, suggested by the “pool of tears” cried by Alice, which would feature a year later in The Long and Winding Road.

Further searching brought suggestions of other songs, in a piece on a Blog called Of Buckley and the Beatles. The White Queen’s repetitive use of the word “better” in the Looking Glass book may have influenced Paul in two songs:

https://ofbuckleyandbeatles.wordpress.com/2010/10/16/lewis-carroll-and-paul-mccartney/

14 Getting Better (1967) from the Sgt Pepper album.

15 Hey Jude (1968) the song that Paul wrote for John’s son Julian.

There is one song missing from my original thoughts, and the suggestions above, that clearly develops the theme.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_the_Walrus

16 Come Together (1969) includes reference to “walrus gumboot”. I had overlooked this, until being reminded by the Wikipedia page for I Am the Walrus that there is a Walrus reference in a Beatles song after Glass Onion.

Next I thought of another song with a lyric that might derive from Carroll, and found a possible link

17 Nowhere Man (1965) is about somebody “making all his nowhere plans for nobody”. There is a character called Nobody in the Lion and the Unicorn episode of the second Alice novel. Nowhere Man was later used in the Yellow Submarine film.

This is turn led to my considering The Fool on the Hill, another tale of a loner, and somebody I imagined as akin to the Mad Hatter in Alice. A Google search led to Alice Through the Magnifying Glass: the Psychedelic Journey of Carroll’s Creations, on a Blog called George’s Journal. The man who wrote this piece suggests echoes of Carroll in various songs and films. In terms of the Beatles, George sees the cinematic Yellow Submarine as significant. George also refers to songs which “could all be said to be lyrically and stylistically Carroll-esque”, which I in turn add to this list, with some additional comments:

https://georgesjournal.org/2011/04/18/alice-through-the-magnifying-glass-the-psychedelic-journey-of-carrolls-creations/

18 Penny Lane (1967) presenting a surreal version of English life, was recorded during the Sgt Pepper sessions, and released as a Double A side single with Strawberry Fields Forever.

19 Fool on the Hill (1967) fits for the reason set out above, and featured in the Magical Mystery Tour film.

20 Happiness is a Warm Gun (1968) is one I am not sure about in the Carroll context. Indeed I have trouble thinking about this song in any context, given that Lennon was shot dead 12 years after it was released.

21 Piggies (1968) was one I had thought about, given the number of animals that appear in the Alice books, including the pig baby.

22 Octopus’s Garden (1969) could fit as a song about a place somewhere near the beach in the first Alice book. It also serves as a sequel to Yellow Submarine, an earlier song sung by Ringo.

23 Mean Mr Mustard (1969) is another one at a tangent, apart from it featuring Her Majesty the Queen, possibly related to a monarch in Wonderland.

24 Polythene Pam (1969) could just about fit as the sequel to Mean Mr Mustard, within the Abbey Road Medley, while being one of the many titles by the Beatles to feature a female name – two years on from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.

I was surprised that the number of songs reached two dozen, but there were still more occurring to me, and I found that somebody had already suggested one of them.

25 Within You Without You (1967) is mentioned in the book Alice’s Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture by Will Brooker (2004). Brooker suggests similarities between the sitar soundtrack by Ravi Shankar to a BBC television  production of Alice, broadcast at the end of 1966, and Within You Without You, a song by George Harrison, who learnt Indian music from Shankar, recorded a few weeks later. I think that the song’s philosophical lyrics echo the cryptic phrases of the caterpillar in Alice.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ub11oqKaT5oC&pg=PA211&lpg=PA211&dq=within+you+without+you+beatles+alice+wonderland&source=bl&ots=qLHJUw7Xr3&sig=PXfIqcfocsCK43mRekdDsu661CI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiRoLGf467MAhWH_ywKHYqUBm8Q6AEIMDAG#v=onepage&q=within%20you%20without%20you%20beatles%20alice%20wonderland&f=false

 With my mind expanded – by knowledge and not narcotics – the mental journey took me to five other songs, which I think were influenced by Carroll:

26 Tomorrow Never Knows (1966) has lyrics that Lennon drew from a book about psychedelic meditation, but the opening “turn off you mind, relax and float downstream” may also owe something to the Alice in a boat image subsequently used in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

27 It’s All Too Much (1967) is one of the great neglected Beatles songs, recorded just after work was completed on Sgt Pepper, but not released until the Yellow Submarine album arrived in 1969, the year after the relevant film. George Harrison goes on a LSD trip, singing about “floating down the stream of time”, birthday cake, and getting “home for tea”. It could be that he is joining Alice at a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

28 Dear Prudence (1968) is a song about Prudence, sister of the actress Mia Farrow, both of whom the Beatles met while meditating in India. The lyrics feature “a little child” and “a daisy chain”, suggesting Alice with her sister at the start of the first book.

29 Golden Slumbers (1969) features lyrics that Paul borrowed from a lullaby of the same title, written by Thomas Dekker in around 1600. There may, however, be an echo of the “golden afternoon” and “dream-child” in the poem that precedes the narrative of the first Alice book. Paul’s song also has a similar musical and lyrical feel to his Alice-inspired The Long and Winding Road.

It’s getting very near the end, and we move to the grand finale. I should also highlight a SPOILER ALERT for anybody who has not read the Alice books.

30 A Day in the Life (1967) is my favourite Beatles song. Despite much searching, I cannot find anybody directly linking this to the Alice books, which means that the remainder of this paragraph can be proclaimed as “It’s my own invention”. Lennon and McCartney’s amazing climax to the Sgt Pepper album extends the dream atmosphere of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Indeed Paul’s verse has a character who “noticed I was late”, just like the White Rabbit, and “went into a dream” which is the very basis of the two novels. When Lennon sings in A Day in the Life that “I read the news today” he echoes the “newspaper taxis” earlier in the album, and the “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” may have expanded from the one hole leading to Wonderland.

Having started with the idea that four songs by the Beatles were directly influenced by Carroll and the Alice novels, a journey through Wonderland has led, admittedly with a few tangents, to a massive 30 tracks to consider – enough to match the wonderful diversity of the White Album.

 

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