Yesterday afternoon I took a detour while shopping in Oxford to drop into The Bodleian Library’s exhibition of Magical Books. As with any Bodleian library exhibition, this did not disappoint. It was so exciting to see hand written manuscripts, art work and artefacts that some of my favourite writers created or were inspired by.
Along with the usual suspects like C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkein and Philip Pullman who you would expect to see at an Oxford based exhibition of fantasy literature, there were some real gems that I hadn’t expected to see like medieval manuscripts on divination, the Rawlinson necromantic manuscript and, my personal favourite, the plates which inspired Alan Garner’s The Owl Service.
We read The Owl Service when I started secondary school and I can remember how I used to get told off for reading ahead in lessons when we were meant to be reading along with the class. It’s the first time I’d really appreciated that a story was updating and twisting an ancient myth into something new and modern (even though the book was at least 30 years old by the time I read it). I think that this is where my love of fairy tale and myth inspired novels has come from so it was really nice to be able to trace out the flower owls like Alison did in the story.
Unfortunately, I’m not able to share any pictures from the exhibition here, but the lovely people at the Bodleian have made the entire exhibition available online for anyone who wasn’t able to make it to Oxford to see it.
Some belated pictures from this year’s Alice Day in Oxford on Saturday. A great day out for all the family with activities like story telling, white rabbit petting zoo, plays, a geocache snark hunt, croquet, mad hatter hat making and of course, lots and lots of tea parties.
White Rabbit Petting Zoo
My boyfriend was confused because not all of the rabbits were pure white, though I was more concerned about the lack of waistcoat and timepiece.
Hookah Smoking Caterpillar
I bumped into this caterpillar when we went to view the bee hive at The Natural History Museum where the Red Queen was throwing a tea party and telling stories to all and sundry. It was great fun, and lots of people had brought their picnics. My boyfriend ran away when The Red Queen accosted him shouting, “Come on, come on, take a seat! We’ve been waiting for you!” The White Rabbit was also in attendance, and when I took the photo below was chatting away to a mother about how lovely it would be if we all had the time to sleep like her baby. I loved how well the actors stayed in character and interacted with everyone.
I also had a good day on the book front buying a new copy of Alice in Wonderland with colour illustrations from The Alice Shop. The sales assistants were dressed in an amazing costumes and were giving away free bookmarks with the Alice Day guide which has come in very handy. It was great to see them really getting into the spirit of things, and they very kindly let me take this picture of them.
I also bought a copy of a craft book Everything Alice. I bought it from Waterstones but arrived a little bit early for the authors signing the books so didn’t get to meet them (though they’ve started following me on Twitter which is cool). The book is amazing and I’ll review it soon, but if I had the time again I’d buy it from the Alice shop who I later found were selling it. The Waterstones staff had done nothing special for the day beyond the author visit- no costume and the most half arsed display imaginable. When I asked when the authors would be arriving the staff seemed half asleep, so I just bought the book and left.
Another place which was marvellously into the spirit of Alice Day was George and Danvers on St. Aldates which had playing cards and rabbits galore, staff in fancy dress and a special Alice in Wonderland ice cream (no mock turtle, eggs which turn into Humpty Dumpty or jam tarts in sight) a delicious raspberry and white chocolate ice cream which just screamed eat me. I hope they start doing it all year round.
Oxford is a fantastic place to live if you like literature. So many fantastic books are set here that you can walk around tracing the steps of your favourite characters (if you like that kind of thing) or you can hang out in pubs which were frequented by greats like Tolkien, Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis. It’s not too bad for celebrity spotting when period dramas are being filmed here, and it’s certainly a good spot for literary festivals, such as the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival which is being held in Oxford at the moment.
Entrance to Festival Bookstore
Other than the wide variety of lectures, something that I was really looking forward to seeing was the “thing” that was billed as The World’s Biggest Book. I have to say I was disappointed. I wouldn’t even call it a book, more a long poster.
Front of "Book"
Back of "Book"
What do you think? Would you class this as a book?
At 8:30pm tomorrow people all around the world will be turning off their lights for earth hour as a stand against climate change. Now, it’s not all that light at 8:30pm still, and reading in the dark can cause serious eye strain, so to save you bookworms that trauma I have come up with a list of five great books to read by candlelight- the flickering shadows will only enhance their dark and mysterious goings on.
The Turn of the Screw-Henry James
Two uncannily beautiful children led astray by the demonic spirits of their deceased governess and her lover, or the twisted workings of a naive young woman’s mind? Henry James’ master parody of Jane Eyre, designed to confound literary analysis,is as at least as entertaining as that governess’ tale, if not more so.
The Thirteenth Tale-Diane Setterfield
A young biographer is summoned from her father’s second hand book shop to the home of a reclusive author who delights in leading journalists on a wild goose chase, however, she wants the girl to write the truth in a tell all biography, and could it be that truth is stranger than fiction? A story of twins, decaying mansions, foundlings, secrets, love, betrayal and ghosts- if you haven’t read it, you must.
Frankenstein– Mary Shelley
It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein caused outrage when it was released because very few people could accept that a woman could think such dark thoughts, and because it didn’t criticise Victor’s attempts to break the laws of God and nature. Exploring that evil is less about ghouls and goblins, and more the corruption that lurks in men’s souls, in an age of cloning and xeno-grafting the books remains as relevant as ever.
The Shadow of The Wind– Carlos Ruiz Zafón
As a young boy, Daniel’s father takes him to The Cemetery of Lost Books to choose a book which he must protect for life. However , before too long, Daniel finds himself being followed by a man with the same name as one of the main characters in the book, Laín Coubert, the devil. A fascinating adventure which speaks volumes about love, loss and the power of books.
Rebecca– Daphne du Maurier
If you’ve ever worried that your partner’s ex was cooler, sexier or more exciting that you are, you should be able to sympathise with the plight of the new Mrs. De Winter. Having met the mysterious and melancholy Maxim de Winter while holidaying in the French Riviera, the young unnamed woman soon finds herself at his ancestral home Manderley, which is still filled with his first wife Rebecca’s clothes and possessions after her unexplained disappearance. And while the new Mrs. De Winter struggles to find her place in another woman’s home, Mrs. Danvers, the fearsome house keeper, pulls the rug from under her at every opportunity.
There are a few foods in this world that I love more than the humble pancake- my preferred version being the crepe and not the Scotch or American styles. I used to spend far too much time cooking them as a teenager, to the point that my Dad asked me whether I was studying the art of pancake making as a form of zen.
In honour of pancake day, one of my favourite days of the year, I’ve been wracking my brain to think of a book which fully extolls the virtues of the humble pancake but I was stumped. Please let me know if you can think of one.
I did however think that the baumtorte in Mr Rosenblum’s List might be perfect for this kind of occasion, I think it is good to have happy rememberances of people, as well as sad ones.
You may remember that I had planned to cook this myself, but sadly I forgot to get the recipe before I passed the bookon to an eager recipient. Never fear! Natasha Solomon herself has come to my rescue with her blog and a recipe in The Times.
My pancake mountain
So until I write my own novel in which pancakes and all things nice are heavily featured, please feast your eyes on my contribution to unhealthy eating. I hope you are enjoying feasting on your own pancakes as well.
Hello all, as you can see I still have lots of copies of Life of Pi to give away. As in my last post, all you have to do is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your address. I won’t keep your details after sending the books, don’t worry!
As part of the World Book Night 2011 Million Book Giveaway, I will be giving away 11 copies of Life of Pi by Yann Martel for World Book Night via this blog.
Life of Pi is the thrilling story of Pi, a young indian boy who survives a ship wreck, only to find himself stranded on a life boat with an injured zebra, an orangutang, a hyena and a hungry bengal tiger. What follows is a strange and maginficent tale of survival and an incredible relationship between a young boy and the tiger. I gave this to my boyfriend, who does not enjoy reading, while we were away from each other during the university summer break and he loved it. I think that says more than the fact that it won the Man Booker Prize.
Unfortunately, due to the risk of bankrupting myself in postage costs, I will only be able to send one of the eleven books internationally- this will be via surface mail. The other ten books I will send via second class post to winners in the UK. The books will be sent on a first come, first served basis to those who send their full name and postal address to email@example.com .