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April 2015

GUEST BLOG: A rolling Stoner
25th April 2015 - 12 Midnight Frances Macmillan

 

StonerOn 23rd April 1965, a novel by John Williams called Stoner was quietly pubished in America. While it was eventually published in Britain it went out of print fairly quickly, until a sudden flurry of interest in 2013 catapulted Vintage Classics' reissue to the top of the bestseller lists.

 

Frances Macmillan, Senior Editor at Vintage Classics, looks at how what is now regarded as a 20th-century classic was rescued from obscurity.

 

 

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Stoner. Perhaps everyone who cares to knows this story by now, but it’s a good one, so I’ll tell it again. 

 

In 1963 John Williams wrote to his agent after sending him the manuscript of Stoner, his third novel: ‘I have no illusions that it will be a 'best seller'... the only thing I’m sure of is that it’s a good novel’. Stoner was published and received a few decent write-ups, particularly from the New York Times; indeed it was well-received enough to find a British publisher in 1973. But when John Williams died in 1994, his prediction that Stoner would not trouble the bestseller lists seemed to have been proved correct.

 

It hardly mattered to him that his book was forgotten and that it served no use; and the question of its worth at any time seemed almost trivial. He did not have the illusion that he would find himself there, in that fading print; and yet, he knew, a small part of him that he could not deny was there, and would be there.

 

That’s a line from the last page of Stoner . It’s startling similar to the quote above from the letter its author wrote – no illusions, no blustering, heartbreakingly clear-eyed, but lit with an quiet unshakeable belief and an understanding of what endures.

 

Now, 50 years on from its first publication, Stoner is published in different countries and languages around the world and is a bestseller in many of them; it’s been feted by everyone from Tom Hanks and Ethan Hawke to Julian Barnes and Bret Easton Ellis; it’s been championed by booksellers and bloggers alike, and it’s been passed on, over and again, from reader to reader.

 

And that's the reason this has all been so exciting: Stoner's sudden and rather dizzying success happened mainly because people read the book, loved it, and passed it on to a friend, saying 'you must read this', in complete certainty that the friend would love it too. Because it is, as John Williams himself knew, a good novel, maybe even a great one. It's the result of labour and love, and its full of things the author believed to be true, written down in a way which means any reader can discover their value. So, sooner or later, whether fifty or a hundred years after its publication, Stoner was always going to be a success.

 

Here’s John Williams again, this time from John McGahern’s introduction to the Vintage Classics edition of Stoner:

 

You never know the results of what you do. I think it all boils down to what I was trying to get at in Stoner. You’ve got to keep the faith.

 

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GUEST BLOG: The great book giveaway
23rd April 2015 - 12 Midnight Elizabeth Fremantle

 

World Book Night 2015It's the fifth annual World Book Night, in which readers, publishers, printers, distributors, libraries, booksellers, private donors, trusts and foundations come together to inspire more people to read.

 

Today volunteers all over the country are eagerly passing out free copies of one of 20 special editions of carefully chosen books, one of which is Queen's Gambit, a gripping account of Tudor times as seen through the eyes of the Queen who outlived Henry VIII, Katherine Parr. Here, its author, Elizabeth Fremantle, explains why she got involved, first as a bookgiver and now as an author.

 

  • See the 20 books being given away by volunteers here

 

I applied to be a book giver on the first World Book Night in 2011. At the time I was struggling to make ends meet, with three novels under my belt, none of them published; an MA in Creative Writing; an agent who no longer returned my calls and a half-finished manuscript for a novel about Katherine Parr. I had said to myself that if that book didn’t find a home with a publishing house I would stop writing and put my time to better use.

 

The book giveaway was an exceedingly appealing idea to me. What could be better than spreading the word about reading? Reading has always held a central role in my life; it has offered refuge, escape, challenges and the opportunity to explore worlds and ideas that might otherwise be out of reach. The pleasure of a good book gratifies in a way nothing else does and one such book is Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith, which I chose to give away on that first World Book Night in 2011. It was, and remains, one of my favourite novels by an author who I hold in high esteem.

 

It is a book that is all things, it is literary, with beautifully styled prose and a formal self-consciousness, yet is also a gripping page-turner with a startling twist that excavates women’s lives and desires with an exquisite deftness. It is a book that could convert those who think they don’t enjoy reading. I felt evangelical about offering Waters’ armchair adventure to people for nothing in return. In a world where nothing comes for free it was curious to see people’s responses to my gift: some suspicious, assuming a catch; some initially puzzled but most delighted.

 

Queen's GambitSo it is an honour to be following in the footsteps of an author I admire so greatly, now that I have a novel of my own being given away on World Book Night. The half-finished manuscript became Queen's Gambit, the first of three novels set in the Tudor period. Most people know Katherine Parr as the wife who survived marriage to the tyrannical Henry VIII, but what is less well known is that she was a successful author at a time when even to be able to read was a privilege for most women.

 

Queen's Gambit is a book about writing and also about reading and the power of the word, following the fortunes of an author queen and her maid, an ordinary woman whose struggle to learn to read opens up previously inaccessible worlds and possibilities to her. Thus it seems an apt choice to be part of the World Book Night initiative.

 

A resounding thank you to those who chose Queen's Gambit to give away; I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I did.

 

  • Elizabeth Fremantle's latest book is Sisters of Treason, now available in paperback and as an ebook
  • Elizabeth is appearing at World Book Night 2015 flagship event at the Shaw Theatre, 100-110 Euston Road, London NW1 2AJ on Thursday 23rd April at 7.30pm; tickets: £20. Click here to book tickets.

 

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GUEST BLOG: The secret history of the conspiracy theory
21st April 2015 - 12 Midnight Tim Clare

 

In The Honours, 13-year-old Delphine Venner, living in the stately home of Alderberen Hall in pre-war Britain, is convinced that her mother and father have fallen under the influence of a shadowy organisation, plotting within secret tunnels under the Hall.

 

Positing the existence of such clandestine groups is typical of the conspiracy theorist. Here the novel's author, Tim Clare, looks at how such ideas flourished long before the mass media and the world wide web allowed arcane and unorthodox views of the world and how it works to spread at the press of a button.

 

 

I love conspiracy theories. There’s something perversely optimistic about the idea that a small group of guys with a dream could get together and change the world. After all, a ‘conspiracy’ is just cooperation with bad PR.

 

The HonoursIn my novel, The Honours, the protagonist, Delphine, is a fully paid-up conspiracy theorist. Unlike me, she doesn’t see it as a brilliant hoot. She is convinced that Britain is threatened by a shadowy cabal who plan to undermine democracy and seize power. She’s not sure who this cabal are, or quite what their plan is, only that they are out there. In fairness, she is only thirteen, and the year is 1935, an age in which the prevailing mood was paranoia.

 

Between the wars – that cosy interbellum period whose presence in the literary canon mostly boils down to the morose beanos of Jay Gatsby and Agatha Christie’s toff bloodbaths – secret societies, and the fear of secret societies, reached a fever pitch.

 

One thing we forget is just how common membership of these societies was. In America, by 1920, an estimated 50% of adults belonged to some kind of fraternal order. A lot were insurance lodges that paid a lump sum on the event of the member’s death – perhaps with a private clubhouse that sold booze on the sly to dodge Prohibition.

 

It’s true that in Freemasonry and similar groups there were rituals, secret teachings, and degrees of initiation, but many of these were truncated or discarded altogether as treasurers found the society profited from initiating as many paying members as possible. Initiations ranged from solemn faux-ancient rites – partly inspired by an upsurge of interest in Egyptology – to out-and-out hazing. ‘Burlesque degrees’, as offered by the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine – known as Shriners – included the blindfolded initiate sitting on a booby-trapped chair rigged to detonate a blank cartridge when they sat down, or being zapped by a spark coil hidden inside a water-filled well, or riding a mechanical goat. Indeed, ‘riding the goat’ became slang for undergoing a humiliating initiation.

 

But of course, make anything secret and you invite speculation, suspicion and paranoia. Conspiracy theorists claimed the goat symbolised the daemon Baphomet, with whom the initiate was symbolically engaging in coitus to show their allegiance to Satan. The KKK – which, at the start of the 20th century had all but collapsed as a functioning organisation – made great headway expanding the focus of its lurid, hate-filled paranoia from blacks to include Freemasons, Catholics, Jews, Communists and Liberals, growing its membership from 100,000 in 1921 to over 4 million by 1924.

 

OvaltineysMeanwhile, anti-Semitic hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was being distributed throughout Europe and America. The document purported to be leaked minutes from a meeting of Jewish elders, discussing their secret plans for dominating the world through lies, undermining morals, sowing discord and usury. Henry Ford paid for the printing and distribution of 500,000 copies. Some versions replaced references to ‘Jews’ with ‘Bolsheviks’ and presented them as proof of the global Communist conspiracy.

 

Record low costs for paper, printing and distribution meant a boom in special interest magazines, periodicals, journals and newsletters, and a concomitant boom in classified ads. A cottage industry grew up around correspondence societies promising to initiate paying acolytes into mysteries ancient and modern – everything from the secrets of Atlantis to the art of hypnotism. As with fraternal orders, these secret societies operated with varying levels of solemnity – in 1935, the year The Honours takes place, malted-milk drink manufacturers Ovaltine invited children to join ‘The Secret League Of Ovaltineys’. There was a theme song and secret passwords.

 

If all of this appears self-evidently ludicrous to the modern reader, we must remember that the 20s and 30s were populated by survivors of one of the most horrendous, bloody wars in human history, and featured starvation, coups, governmental collapse, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the emergence of quantum physics. Faith in conventional politics, Western civilisation, even the fundamental basis of reality, was dissolving.

 

What the interbellum period really represents is a crisis in rationalism.

 

Thule SocietyAgainst the background radiation of this fear, rumour and frothing racist fervour, the rise of Fascism feels horribly plausible. The role of the Thule Society – a secret occult organisation which believed in an ancient lost Aryan continent – in the rise of National Socialism has been sensationalised and overplayed, but the irrational belief in secret societies – of cliques of hidden enemies conspiring to bring down civilisation – was crucial.

 

We’re used to reading about the 1930s with a certain smugness – a sort of moral complacency, where characters state their political convictions in rather blunt terms and we tut and shake our heads. Oh, this one’s a Nazi, we think, how vulgar. Even as novels feign a message of ‘it could’ve happened here’, crypto-Fascists remain comfortably Other, asking only that we revise our sense of the national myth, rather than our personal one.

 

In The Honours, Delphine is undoubtedly a Fascist in the making. She sees plots everywhere. She spies on her enemies. She fears and despises foreigners. She venerates her father for his military service. She’s obsessed with guns. She kills.

 

And the most unsettling thing about her – I hope – is she’s really rather likeable.

 

Of course she is. Irrational beliefs, no matter how abhorrent, aren’t held by monsters. They’re held by people. That, I suspect, is the most terrifying thing about secret societies. When finally your foes have been rounded up and executed, when finally you tear down the brocaded tapestries and reach the inner sanctum, what you find are not monsters.

What you find – if you can bear to look – are frightened human beings, just like you.

 

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GUEST BLOG: Letting in foreigners
15th April 2015 - 12 Midnight Daniel Hahn


International IMPAC Dublin Literary AwardDaniel Hahn is a writer and translator, from Portuguese, Spanish and French. He is the current Chair of the Society of Authors and serves on the comittee for English PEN's Writers in Translation Committee, and as well being a trustee of a number literary organisations and formerly Chair of the Translators Association and national programme director of the British Centre for Literary Translation. His translation of The Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo Agualusa saw the two of them share the 2007 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

 

This year he is one of the judges for the 20th International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, whose shortlist has been announced today. This prize, the richest single-book literary award in the world, is unusual in the English-speaking world for admitting fiction in translation. Here Daniel offers some insight into how the shortlist was chosen and wonders why so few other awards are willing to consider fiction in translation.

 

 

One of the things that marks out the IMPAC Dublin Award, whose shortlist my fellow judges and I have announced today, is that it treats English-language books and translated-into-English books on an exactly equal footing. The longlist (an altogether alarming 142 titles) comprised about two-thirds English-language originals from right across the Anglosphere and a third English translations of foreign work. They are all treated equally, and considered on exactly the same terms. This approach seems right to me, and to tell the truth, I don’t really understand why it’s so uncommon; and yet all the biggest UK prizes, even those that make a claim to an increasing internationalism, ignore the great novels that great translators are writing in English, presumably suspicious of some impurity in their linguistic origins. Some of the best English-language novels I’ve read in recent years may have come from Ali Smith, David Mitchell, or Colm Tóibín, but they’ve also come from Javier-Marias-&-Margaret-Jull-Costa, or Jenny-Erpenbeck-&-Susan-Bernofsky, or Javier-Cercas-&-Anne-McLean; but most Anglophone book prizes bar these latter titles entry, and the judges never get to consider them. The IMPAC Dublin Award knows better.

 

Horses of GodThe books on our international shortlist have little respect for boundaries. They include two novels by Australian novelists, one of them (Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites) set in early nineteenth-century Iceland, the other (Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North) set partly on the Burma railway. We have two Americans: Alice McDermott, the author of Someone, about Irish Americans in Brooklyn; and Roxana Robinson, whose Sparta introduces Conrad, just back from a tour of duty in Iraq. Colum McCann, a previous winner of this prize, is Irish, but his shortlisted novel this year, TransAtlantic, has an American slant; while Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Americanah is similarly footloose, shuttling between the US and her native Nigeria. In K, Bernardo Kucinski and his translator Sue Branford together bring to life a Polish immigrant to Brazil; French novelist Andreï Makine, with translator Geoffrey Strachan, takes us to Russia, the land of the writer’s birth, in his Brief Loves that Live Forever; while in Horses of God, Moroccan writer Mahi Binebine and his British translator Lulu Norman tell a story that does stay tidily contained within Morocco, but boldly spans both sides of the grave. Finally Jim Crace’s Harvest, set in a small English village, completes the shortlist. With the exception, I suppose, of McDermott and Crace, both of which range in time more than space, these are not exactly books that stay put.

 

Their wonderfully various origins, settings and traditions apart, what these fine books have in common is that they are all novels written in English. In some cases, by an English-language novelist, in others they’re written by a skilled translator following a map laid out by a novelist in another language. These latter examples are strange, collaborative, hybrid things, but they’re ultimately great pieces of English-language fiction-writing, just like the others on the list – it’s just that the process of getting to an English incarnation required an extra step, and an extra writer to carry it along. We have chosen ten superb books, which between them owe their existence to thirteen superb writers.

 

I’m not going to comment on the judging process and the conversations we had to get this far, except to say one thing: even though there were some 40 translated works on our longlist, we haven’t been discussing the art of translation, or the work of translators. Not at all. Which I think is just as it should be. We have discussed 142 English-language novels, and just reminded ourselves once our list was done that some of them were authored by more than one hand.

 

That’s how readers read, after all, surely? I don’t think I read translations differently from non-translations. I don’t read Swedish crime differently from Scottish crime, or Dutch literary fiction differently from Canadian literary fiction. And indeed we translators depend on that – I’m a translator myself, and I know my English-language work will compete in the same marketplace as novels by British writers, and I want my readers to consume my words in just the same way – we all know there’s been some mediation between original and reader (that would be me), but during the process of reading we obligingly collude in the pretence that there is none. I don’t want my readers to think my book is quite good 'for a translation', I want the writing in it to be every bit as sparkly and muscular and paced and voice and just thrummingly, cracklingly alive as the very best that any English-language novelist could produce.

 

Our shortlist – hard-fought, as these things are – is our selection of the ten best books we read of the 142 titles nominated. They are all available to English-language readers, and every one demonstrates supreme skill from its writer(s); in some cases, the book has only ever had a life in English, in others, the first drafts towards this English translation happened in a different language, and only the latter drafts shifted into the language in which we’ve been reading it. So what? I don’t think translations are, fundamentally, a different category of thing. I don’t think they need special treatment, or particular expertise to read and enjoy or appraise them, and I love the inclusiveness of the IMPAC for allowing them to be taken seriously just like everybody else, and for getting past the assumption that somehow the translated stuff doesn’t belong with proper English-language writing. A work of translation-into-English is a work of writing in English. Naturally, it may be good, and it may be terrible. The only thing that distinguishes the ones that weren’t originally drafted in the same language they’ve ended up in, is that their first and last drafts will usually have come from different pens. I’m not sure why so many UK prizes refuse to understand this, but I wish they would; they ought be proud to celebrate the very best novels in English, regardless of any unusual linguistic origins, just like the IMPAC is.

 

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Meet the translator, no.1
11th April 2015 - 12 Midnight

English PENThe work of translators is often overlooked, with their names often discreetly hidden away in the books that they painstakingly recreate in new languages.

In the first of a new series, presented in partnership with literature and human rights organisation English PEN, we present an interview with Sam Garrett, who translated Tommy Wieringa’s These Are the Names, a haunting epic set on the distant Eurasian steppe and one of the latest additions to the English PEN World Bookshelf.

Sam has translated over 30 titles from Dutch, including Herman Koch's bestseller, The Dinner, and cult cycling classic Tim Krabbe’s The Rider. He is also the only translator to have twice won the British Society of Authors’ Vondel Prize for Dutch-English translation.

 

An extract from These Are the Names

 

Their feet dragged through the sand. Interminable was the space they moved through. The landscape before them was precisely the same as the one behind; the one on the right differed in no way from that on the left. The only lines to guide them on the steppes were the sky above their heads and the ground beneath their feet.

 

Their footsteps were wiped out quickly behind them. They were passers-by, leaving no trail and no recollections.

 


 

These Are the NamesWith the current swell of anti-immigration rhetoric we are seeing across UK and Europe, did you feel any special responsibility as the translator bringing this story into English? What do you think about the novel’s treatment of the migrants?

 

The migrants in These Are the Names are victims, of course. But the complex truth of the novel is that they are victims at least in part to the blindness brought on by their own fervent hopes. Other than their basic humanity, and their dreams of freedom, there is very little about this group of migrants that one could call 'noble'. They’ve been dropped on the steppes by an Eastern European version of a 'coyote', and are dragging themselves towards the fata morgana of the West. Their journey is a 'thicket of terrors'; the climate is a monster intent on devouring them alive, the journey is one of attrition; the dying fall and are stripped of their belongings before death even comes, and in the course of that journey the members of the group come close to and even pass that nubbin of humanity that separates them from the beast.

 

It would be hard to turn that into a story of heroism or a plea for tolerance, and it would in fact be literary vandalism to even try. But having said that, the 'society' we see being formed out on the anvil of the steppes is shockingly similar to our own. And from that society there emerges one character we might call a hero: the boy.

 

The boy and Beg, somehow, are two peas in a pod. If there is a lesson about tolerance to be found in the book, it’s in the depiction of that odd couple. Beg is a hardnosed cop, but wise enough not to withhold respect from those who have passed through the fire of exodus. By their deeds you shall know them.

 

The novel asks difficult questions about identity, place and how the latter influences the former. How did you navigate translating the constantly shifting perspectives – from Pontus Beg’s comfy, introspective, banal existence to the refugees’ visceral, ever-shifting, nomadic life?

 

You’re right about the shifting perspectives, but as I read and then entered that form of 'deep reading' that translation is, I was struck by the similarities between the two journeys – at various levels - perhaps even more than by the differences. Tommy Wieringa’s point – counterpoint narrative is particularly interesting because of the way the two narrative lines converge so naturally.

 

The threat of starvation and death by exposure, of course, elicits more primal fear in us than the threat of dying in relative comfort without knowing who we are or where we belong. But Pontus Beg’s existential journey is urgent in a way that is probably more familiar to most of us, which makes it all the more pressing. What would you fear most: freezing to death while doing your best to reach freedom, or dying alone in your apartment without knowing your own name?

 

In practical terms, the hop-scotching back and forth between the deprivations on the steppes and the post-imperial grime of Michailopol was great fun; the writer, the translator and ultimately the reader all experience a kind of omnipresence. The tension lies in being omnipresent without being omniscient. 

 

You previously translated Tommy Wieringa’s Caesarion (shortlisted for the 2013 Dublin IMPAC Award). In both that novel and These Are The Names, Wieringa draws the mythic/religious/historical into the novel’s present day; Beg reads Confucius, various faith practices/traditions are spotlighted and exaggerated (Zita visits the church fervently in hope of getting pregnant, one of the refugees wears a cross around his neck which the others fixate on, Beg engages with his lost ancestral Jewish roots.) For you, what do the mythic elements of the story do - and how, if at all, did they affect your translation of it?

 

Much of the important reading I’ve done in my life started at university. But I grew up with the Bible. In our circles, it was a sign of status to be able to quote whole sections of that book by heart. Oppressive as that was at times, it has proven invaluable to me as a translator. Not only the literal allusions that would otherwise have to be dug up or remain hidden, but also the sense of what you rightly call the mythic. Words can change your life. Stories can change your life. Forces are at play. Rituals are the coinage of a kind of mystic economy. All that. Whether it’s Judaism or Christianity or Taoism, the questions that are asked – also by Pontus Beg, also by Zita, also by the refugees in this book  – show that we expect there to be answers. When those answers are too long in coming, we may go looking for them somewhere else.

 

The story takes place in and around Michailopol, a fictionalised Russian town. The portrayal of the decaying post-Soviet town, with the savage wild landscape lying just beyond, is very powerful. Did you visit that part of the world to get a feel for what it’s like?

 

I didn’t travel for my translation of this particular book, but the travelling I’ve done in the past definitely jogged my imagination. In the course of the last thirty years I’ve travelled through former East Germany, I was also in Hungary in the early 1980s and drove across the Puszta there, then crossed the border to the West at a Soviet-style crossing with watchtowers, guards, dogs, mirrored trolleys to detect stowaways, etc. As a young man in the United States I camped in the desert and on the Great Plains, at the center of a 360-degree electrical storm. So vastness and vulnerability, also the sense of a hostile, suspicious division between two worlds, they’re all familiar to me. That helped.

 

Describe the book in three words.

 

Human hope burns.

 

 

Interview by English PEN's Programmes Co-ordinator Rebekah Murrell

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GUEST BLOG: 'I think I must have been changed several times since then'
8th April 2015 - 12 Midnight Suzanne Dean

 

In The Story of Alice, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst explores the lives of the eccentric and brilliant mathematician Charles Dodgson and his 'dream-child' Alice Liddell, and how his fictional alter ego created Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a story that meant she would never grow up.

But how do you create a suitable jacket for a book about such a beloved example of children's literature? Suzanne Dean, Creative Director at publisher Random House, begins at the beginning, goes on till she comes to the end, then stops.

 

Alice Liddell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'The Alice stories represent a different kind of heroism. They offer a triumph of wit over brawn, and playfulness over high seriousness, in which the leading character is not a muscular warrior or a mysterious god but an ordinary little girl, whose original adventures have proven themselves capable of producing endless supplements and offshoots – plays, films, toys, tablecloths, advertisements, and more – in which she is always slightly different but always recognizably the same. Alice is a heroine with a thousand faces.'

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

 


 

I felt that the cover for The Story of Alice needed to reflect the inventive and playful nature of the Alice novels. It required an approach that looked contemporary but that suggested the past. It also needed to allude to a major theme within The Story of Alice – the precise nature of the triangular relationship between Carroll, the real Alice, and the fictional Alice.

 

I started with researching different images of Alice. Photographs felt too formal and Victorian, so I decided to use the original Tenniel drawings as a basis for my design as they are so iconic, witty and characterful. In my opinion the illustrations have never been bettered and are positively embedded into our collective consciousness.

 

Alice images for first attempt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this in mind, I explored which illustration of Alice would work best.

 

I initially worked on an idea, using the Tenniel drawing of Alice merging into the book and on the back cover emerging out of the book. It was an amusing concept but I felt not visually strong enough for the cover.

 

I then looked at isolating the Alice figure by transforming it into a silhouette. I tried lots of alternatives but many of the drawings loose their definiton. Others did not have the ideal shape to hold the title lettering or sit well within the cover format.

 

Alice changing into ink image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final image of Alice herself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then experimented by painting the silhouettes with blue and black Quink ink. This medium really appeals to me as when the ink dries it seperates into dramatic shades within the inky darkness.

 

The inky blue silhouette of Alice allows us to project onto her who we want her to be. The deep blue ink hints at something darker going on, which of course much of the book is preoccupied with.

 

It is a true indication of how iconic the illustration is, that we can recognise at once, Alice holding the pig, even in silhouette.

Alice background ideas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I had my Alice silhouette I experimented with backgrounds. Plain blue and blue and white stripes proved too dominant so I settled for a light cream. I introduced a repeat pattern of an asterisks to allude to Lewis Carroll’s playful and original use of asterisks throughout the text of the Alice novels. In Wonderland, when Alice changes size after she eats the cake or drinks from the bottle marked ‘POISON’ her transition is marked with three lines of asterisks. In Through the Looking-Glass, the asterisks mark key moments of transition in Alice’s dream and her moves across the chessboard.

 

Alice asterisks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alice red original

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose a red cloth case with gold blocking in deference to the original red cased edition of Alice in Wonderland. The whole design was finished off by incorporating all my Alice paintings into a playful chess board motif for the endpapers.

 

 

Alice chessboard endpapers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Latest Blog
GUEST BLOG: A rolling Stoner
25/04/2015

Frances Macmillan, Senior Editor at Vintage Classics, looks at how John Williams' Stoner, published 50 years ago, was rescued from obscurity and eventually became acknowledged as a 20th-century classic.

GUEST BLOG: The great book giveaway
23/04/2015

Elizabeth Fremantle, whose novel Queen's Gambit is on of the 20 being given away all over Britain today by volunteers for World Book Night, reveals how she first got involved as a volunteer.

GUEST BLOG: The secret history of the conspiracy theory
21/04/2015

Tim Clare - whose novel The Honours sees a teenge girl convinced her parents are under the malign influence of a secret society - looks at how conspiracy theories spread long before mass media and the world wide web.

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