Good piece about Lewis Carroll by The New Yorker’s film ciritic, Anthony Lane:
The latest entrant to the Carrollian maze is Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, who has written “The Story of Alice” (Belknap). As someone who teaches English at Magdalen College, Oxford, he is nicely positioned for the task—a stroll away from Christ Church, the college where the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson taught mathematics, and the longtime residence of Lewis Carroll, who was almost, but not quite, the same person. The pair of them tussled, like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and Carroll gave a peculiar definition of himself:
One who, having been unlucky enough to perpetrate two small books for children, has been bullied ever since by the herd of lion-hunters who seek to drag him out of the privacy he hoped an “anonym” would give him.
It is a miracle, in retrospect, that the small books should have earned such global fame. After all, they are not merely British, and not merely Victorian, but nineteenth-century Oxonian—as fastidious as Carroll himself, who complained to the college steward about the cooking of cauliflower at dinner and the hour at which his window cleaners had arrived. Other Oxford men, no less conservative in their tastes, and no less religiously observant, have sat in their rooms and conjured alternative lands, named Narnia and Middle-earth, but only Carroll dared to import into his creation the quizzical habits that he observed in his surroundings. Things in Oxford have a habit of being other than what they sound like. The House is not a house but another name for Christ Church; a Student, at the House, is not a student but a fellow; and going up and coming down, at Oxford and Cambridge, refer not to elevators but to arrivals and departures. To be sent down is the gravest penalty of all; what sin has Alice committed, one wonders, to be dispatched so abruptly down a rabbit hole?