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August 14, 2014

Book Notes - William Todd Seabrook "The Imagination of Lewis Carroll"

The Imagination of Lewis Carroll

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Winner of the Rose Metal Press Short Short Contest, William Todd Seabrook's novella The Imagination of Lewis Carroll is an imaginative and richly told retelling of the author's life.

Michael Martone wrote of the book:

"The Imagination of Lewis Carroll is a work of stunning and sudden science fiction, a book not about an alien world or other dimension or alternate time but a book from such a world, dimension, and time. This is a gutsy book as it confronts the exhilaratingly convoluted quagmire of high Victorian nonsense with a minute poacher’s spade shaped from a sterling coffee spoon. In this book, William Todd Seabrook has codified a new code of dots and dashes, of gesture and innuendo, that makes strange again the received strangeness of Carroll and his cohorts and records, in brilliant shorthand, the long game of the culture of the cultured cathedral of wordy words."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is William Todd Seabrook's Book Notes music playlist for his novella The Imagination of Lewis Carroll:

The defining of terms:

There are two lists.

The list titled Of Method is music that reflects my writing process.

It is a loose interpretation of "writing process."

The list titled Of Madness is music to accompany my book The Imagination of Lewis Carroll.

There are twenty-four sections in the book and I paired two-thirds of them with songs.

It is a loose interpretation of the word "song."

It is also a loose interpretation of the word "two-thirds."

Loose interpretation of the word "book" while we're at it.

Just, loose interpretations all around.

Of Method: The soundtrack for a lowly writer

"Toccata and Fugue in D minor" – Bach
The writing has not started and I am already filled with dread.

"March of the Slaves" – Tchaikovsky
After an hour of typing-then-furiously-deleting the same two words (Lo! Forsooth!), I resign myself to this terrible fate of being a writer. As I weep for my children, I start writing sentences.

"Sorcerer's Apprentice" – Dukas
Let me assure you, magic is not what is happening. But I am floundering around in a whirlpool of my own blood and tears.

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" – Grieg
I write a line that doesn't sound like it was written by an illiterate kitchen appliance.

"Ride of the Valkyries" – Wagner
Hark! A second line!—also slightly better than what a toaster could do.

"William Tell Overture" – Rossini
Three lines in a row! That's a goddamn paragraph! This is surely a feat that few, if any, writers have ever accomplished.

"Bolero" – Ravel
I realize that my characters have been repeating the same three lines of dialogue for fifteen pages.

"Adagio for Strings" – Barber
The unyielding depression hits—my old friend.

"The Aquarium" – Saint-Saens
I wonder if a hobgoblin motif is too subtle.

"Brindisi" ("Libiamo ne' lieti calici") – Verdi
A drink? Why certainly. Surprised I lasted this long.

"Entry of the Gladiators" – Fucik
I watch Vines for 45 minutes.

"Dires Ira" – Mozart
I close my laptop and make my apologies to God. I do not ask for forgiveness. I know there is none to be had.

Of Madness: Music that rather accurately or extremely poorly accompanies my book The Imagination of Lewis Carroll

All in the Golden Afternoon
"The Senses Song" – Animaniacs

You try telling a story off the top of your head to three preteen girls while rowing a boat in a three-piece tuxedo on a blazing summer day. I bet that story won't make a lick of goddamned sense either.

Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?
"Riddlebox" – Insane Clown Posse

I present to you this evidence that Lewis Carroll was one of the earliest Juggalos:
- He had the soul of a clown.
- He was Christian.
- His rhymes don't make sense, either.


Lewis Carroll's Adventures Underground
"Land Down Under" – Men at Work

1) Carroll's original handwritten manuscript was titled Alice's Adventures Underground.
2) Australia became a British penal colony in 1788.
These two facts have never before had anything to do with one another until this song was chosen to accompany this section of this book. You are welcome.

The Tea Party of Lewis Carroll
"Gin and Juice" – Snoop Doggy Dogg

Contrary to popular belief, Lewis Carroll was not high when he wrote Alice in Wonderland. (Like most self-respecting people in the 19th century, it wasn't until late in his life that he became addicted to opium.) But Carroll and Snoop Dogg do share a remarkable affinity for doubling letters in their pseudonyms.

Lewis Carroll's Illustrations
"Everything in Its Right Place" – Radiohead

This section involves Lewis Carroll sending his illustrator, John Tenniel, increasingly precise specifications for all the drawings in Alice in Wonderland. I like to imagine their letters being written in forlorn synthesizer tones with every line repeating itself until even the most banal sentiments seem terrifyingly profound.

The Sermon of Lewis Carroll
"Let Me Clear My Throat" – DJ Kool

Lewis Carroll had a terrible stutter.

The Pseudonym of Charles Dodgson
"My Name Is" – Eminem

The name Lewis Carroll comes from translating his name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson into Latin—Carolus Ludovicus— and then anglicizing it into Carroll and Lewis. It is strange to think that everyone who knew him in his life, knew him as Charles Dodgson, but the rest of the human race will forever remember him by a made-up name.

The Duel of Lewis Carroll
"You're a Jerk" – New Boyz

When he taught at Oxford, Carroll managed to get into a fight with a 19-year-old kid named Francis Needham who wanted to host a ball at the college. To Carroll this was a rather egregious proposal, especially since Alice Liddell would be in attendance, and so Carroll—as a contributing member of the university—rejected Needham's proposal. Kind of a dick move if you ask me.

The Illustrious Lewis Carroll
"Mondegreen" – Yeasayer

A "mondegreen" is the mishearing of a word due to of pseudo-homophony, and this section of the book is fraught with homophony and sad misunderstandings. This section is better read aloud. By someone else. Or not read at all.

The Solutions of Lewis Carroll
Secret Pictures" – Poirer

It has been widely speculated that Lewis Carroll had an inappropriate relationship with young girls, evidenced mainly in the nude photographs he took of them. Of course, in the 19th century "nude" meant your ankles were showing and you were only wearing four petticoats. Carroll, of course, was always dressed in the standard 45-piece suit.

When Lewis Carroll Faced the Jabberwocky
"The Mob Song" – Beauty and the Beast

Carroll's "Jabberwocky" poem is often mistaken as being a part of Alice in Wonderland, when, point in fact, it is in the sequel Through the Looking-Glass. This myth is similar to the common misconception that the "Mob Song" from Beauty and the Beast isn't the greatest song ever composed by humans. Point in fact: it is.

Lewis Carroll as a Contributing Member of the University
"Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster" – Geto Boys

It is well documented that whenever Lewis Carroll walked across the Oxford campus "Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster" boomed from the Heavens.

The Pseudonym of Lewis Carroll
"I Think I'm a Clone Now" – Weird Al Yankovic

Lewis Carroll was the stuttering, introverted Weird Al of the 1860s. All of the poems in Alice in Wonderland are parodies of popular children rhymes written by such famous people as Jane Taylor and Isaac Watts. I know, I've never heard of them either. Just like in century no one will know who Coolio and Men Without Hats are, and Weird Al will be considered our century's greatest musician.

An Agony in Eight Fits
"Dead Puppies" – Ogden Edsl

If there was a single opportunity, however the Gods may will it, to play a particular piece of music—a piece of music from any time, both past and future—at any particular funeral—of any human, dead or alive or yet to live—it would be an opportunity wasted if the song was anything other than "Dead Puppies" and the funeral was any other than Lewis Carroll's.

William Todd Seabrook and The Imagination of Lewis Carroll links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book (PDF)
video trailer for the book

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

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