Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sylvie and Bruno, together again

I've had the omnibus collection of Lewis Carroll stories for years now. I bought it when I worked at a discount bookstore, so in addition to it being cheap at that point anyway, I also got an employee discount. Since I bought it I've been meaning to read Sylvie and Bruno, but never got around to it. Until now, natch.

S&B was written much later in Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's life than the Alice books. They were at this point something of a burden for him, at least the way he saw it. As an author he was seen as something of a one hit wonder. Hence this story of a brother and sister who are both human and fairies, and how they cope with their father being betrayed by political underlings.

Here instead of the children transporting themselves to the fantasy world through a rabbit hole or a porous mirror - or a wardrobe, as a later author might have done it - they just toggle back and forth with not much thought and really no warning. This dream like jumbled-up quality may be the story's most interesting element. James Joyce was an admirer.

From what I've read so far, the lack of quality villains is the biggest problems. In Carroll's Alice books, the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen are horrible and monstrous, but they're also colorful. They don't take away any of the story's fun. In Sylvie and Bruno, the Vice Warden and his wife and their son Uggug may be evil, but it's in a drab way. In fact Uggug is less creepy than retarded, simply drawing the short straw to become one of the antagonists.

I'm still in the process of reading, so I'm also in the process of deciding how successful the venture is. If nothing else I am inclined to keep on until the end.

3 comments:

susan said...

Naturally, I've read both the Alice books but never went further than them. The concept that has Sylvie and Bruno slipping between worlds does sound pretty interesting but I can see what you mean about the villains not being up to the challenge. The queens in the two famous books were definitely scary. It seems to me that if you can't have a worthy malefactor then there must be other hardships that allow for literary tension.

Ben said...

There are two volumes, as it turns out. I just finished the first one recently. The antagonists turn out not to be such a big part of it. As I forgot to mention before, the narrator also takes part in a more realistic story of thwarted young love, so some tension oomes from that.

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