Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Alice in Wonderland (Penguin Classics)
Alice in Wonderland (Penguin Classics)
Penguin Books Ltd, Paperback, 08 January, 1998
Authors: Lewis Carroll, John Tenniel
ISBN: 0140433171
List Price: £4.99
Used Price: £0.01
Third Party Price: £6.52
Availability: Limited availability
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Customer Reviews

Unforgettable Alice
First published in 1865, Lewis Carroll's fascinating story has captured the imagination of succeeding generations and been the subject of a number of films and TV adaptations.

Lewis Carroll was the pen-name of Charles Dodgson, an Oxford mathematician and clergyman who came to know at least one real 'Alice', Alice Liddell, who was the child of a colleague.

Re-reading the book in adult life, it's still not clear to me whether it's a children's book for children, a children's book for adults or a slightly crazy attempt to explore the mind of a child through the reconstruction of a number of dreams.

It remains a fascinating work of fiction which certainly captures the spirit of a dreamlike state and puts together all kinds of wildly symbolic and often comic ideas in a disturbing and perplexing anarchy that, so far as I know, haunts our awakening hours throughout life.

Reading it as a child and later an adolescent, the book seemed to me to be a benchmark of my own development. If I could tell at which point Alice dropped off and entered the dream and begin to have some idea of what some of these weird experiences where about; I felt I was getting somewhere.

Now, I'm not so sure. Because, after all, Charles Dodgson was never a little girl. So was he trying to show us what he thought he had understood about the mind of a little girl ? Alice is certainly a very astute, mature and logical child, who is fiercely unaccepting of the thought process of others, while perfectly quick to adapt to the crazy situations in which she finds herself.

This book is a lasting treasure, why ever it was written and what ever it really contains.

Quite charming, really
I must confess I had never read the account of Alice's adventures before. As an adult, though, I found the two books to be quite charming and fun to read. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland is the much more enjoyable tale of the two, perhaps because so much of it was already familiar to me as a part of popular culture. Through the Looking Glass seemed to me to be much more contrived and less magical. I found myself trying to puzzle out hidden messages and motifs in the latter work, while I basically just read the Wonderland story for pure enjoyment. The latter tale also seemed to fall apart at the seams as it began to approach its conclusion. Without rereading the books, I have trouble seeing all of the complex and satirical things mentioned by academic types (such as a critique of Victorian society and contemporary educational methods), nor does the whole chess game motif make complete sense to me, although the workings of the game apparently pleased the mathematician in Carroll's alter-ego enough thathe attempts to explain it at the start of Through the Looking Glass.

It was a treat to see the original illustrations of John Tenniel interspersed throughout both stories, despite the fact that Alice appears a good bit more sullen than I envision her in my own mind. It was also good to be formally introduced to such well-known entities as the Cheshire Cat, although Humpty Dumpty certainly comes across as a rather taciturn figure. For those of you who love puns, Lewis Carroll offers you a gold mine of them, although I doubt that many children will actually understand very many of them until they reach an age in which they will probably reject a reading of Carroll as "baby stuff." I'm no expert on children's literature (or on children, for that matter), but the story of Alice's adventures would seem to offer a free ticket to an enticing fantasy world for youngsters and a delightfully quaint vacation spot for adult readers.

The above synopsis remarks that this edition includes the previously missing 'Wasp in a Wig' episode - in fact it doesn't. That chapter (actually only part of chapter) appears in another edition... however this edition includes comprehensive notes second only to Martin Gardner's annotated edition as well as the full text of Carroll's first draft, 'Alice's Adventures Underground'. As such, this is probably the best value edition of these ingenious and priceless works.

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