Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Alice in Sunderland


A new book from Brian Talbot is always a a treat, something to be pored over, and Alice in Sunderland is a true confection. The book is a history of Britain, the North and particularly Sunderland, seen through the lense of Lewis Carrol and his most famous book. Along the way it considers public art, the public's treatment of war heroes, the conspiratorial nature of literary criticism, the almost supernatural interconnection of lives, parental relationships, propriatory behaviour towards literary icons and the geographical mirroring of Sunderland and Wonderland with a passing mention of Hartlepools claim to fame (monkey or frenchman?). All of this is done in a smorgasbord of styles including la ligne clair, collage, heavy brush work and fumetti style photo comics.

The book is fascinating as a whole, but this is primarily down to the author. The material could have easily been dull and boring in another writers hands. Talbot's style is that of a popular history of the sort that makes best sellers lists and can be bought off the shelf in Tesco's, something that could be a channel 4 series perhaps and as such it may not appeal to the more seriously minded students of literary, social and geographical history. For someone looking for a broad and popular history of Sunderland tied to a literary icon you'd be hard pressed to find better.

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