Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

If I wanted to, I think I would be justified in calling Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass two books, but I'm so ahead that I think I'll have some mercy on you people and just call it one, since I read them together in a shared volume. Hell, I'm not even reviewing all the Shakespeare plays I'm reading this year--I'm just that nice of a guy.

Anyway, I'd never read either Alice book, but I pretty much got the gist from the movie, which sort of squashes both books together. The books are actually a little trippier than I imagined, since the whole thing is actually a sort of dreamscape (literally in Wonderland), the transitions between scenes and events are often vague. Numerous times Alice ends up somewhere without knowing how she got there, or babies change into pigs, shit like that. Much of it is very creepy, and I wonder exactly why more people don't find it more disturbing--I suspect it is because, like me, few people have actually read it. A woman in my class made the interesting observation that kids who have chaotic childhoods often seem to be disturbed by the novel's absurdism, while children with healthy childhoods do not.

In any case, Alice is a pretty colorful piece of absurdism. The wordplay is amazing, from the Jabberwocky to little puns like the Mock Turtle--from whom mock turtle soup is made. At its heart, the Alice books are a response to children's literature, which up to this point (mid-19th century) had been dominated by very didactic books about God and righteousness which presented clear morals and encouraged children to become better people through their reading. Alice is a rejection of all that, to the point where it is almost completely stripped of meaning, down to a celebration of absurdism and nonsense. It's not so much a book (or pair of books) about nothing as on nothing, that is, nothing is its chief concern. In that way, I think it very interestingly foreshadowed modernism a genre that didn't appear for another seventy years after this was written.


Carlton said...

"James McAvoy pierced by hooks through his nipples while he is eating pot brownies" should really be a standard tag.

Carlton said...

Oh, and if you read the subtitle again, you'll see that we are not racing against each other, but against time.