Saturday, April 16, 2011

Annotated Alice

I heard of the Annotated Alice through the blog Inside a Black Apple and immediately went to my library to get it. Note-initially I accidentally got More Annotated Alice, and I definitely recommend reading the regular Annotated Alice first. Or, you could read the Definitive Edition and get the best of both worlds-all annotated by Martin Gardner.

It is a common supposition that Lewis Carroll was on opium when he wrote the Alice books (in fact, if you type "was lewis" into Bing, the first option that comes up is "was lewis carroll on drugs"). There are definitely dream-like qualities in the books; sudden changes of scene, episodes that seem random and unconnected, etc., but none of the books I've ever read on Alice or Lewis Carroll mention drugs. His writing is full of inside jokes between himself and the Liddell sisters, or amusing jokes for other mathematicians, logicians, and philosophers. Carroll was a very intelligent man, and if he did do drugs, I'm sure he couldn't possibly have written the Alice books while under the influence-they're too intricate. For example, "Through the Looking Glass" represents an actual chess game that follows all the rules of chess. Most of his poetry are parodies of well-known poems and songs from his time. The story originated as tales he would tell the Liddell sisters while out boating, off the top of his head-apparently Alice was fond of nonsensical tales and requested them. Given that, it's no surprise the stories might appear a little disjointed or strange.

Drugs didn't play a part in the writing of these books, but if you've heard rumors of Carroll's unhealthy interest in little girls, that much is true. I don't think he ever actually molested anyone, but it's quite clear he had complicated relationships with his young child the preface to "More Annotated Alice" Gardner tells us that four photographs of naked little girls were found in Carroll's possession. Caryl Hargreaves, the son of Alice's real-life counterpart (Alice Pleasance Liddell) believes Carroll was in love with his mother, and there are indications that Carroll had hinted to Alice's mother about future marriage. His interest in little girls, though, seemed to wane as soon as they hit puberty-and he seemed to detest all little boys.

I personally found the book absolutely riveting, but it was funny to see people's reactions when they asked what I was reading. You could tell they were thinking, "Oh great, how can respond to this politely?" But anyone reading this blog would probably find it interesting as I did. There are all sorts of interesting tidbits-some only speculation, of course, but interesting nontheless. I had no idea there were so many Lewis Carroll societies and publications, or people that consider themselves to be "Carrollians."

Rather appropriately, Emily Martin of the above mentioned blog has been doing another series of Alice-themed characters. Below are the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Mad Hatter, the Chesire Cat, the Red Queen, Alice herself, and "Still Life with Live Flowers" (based on the garden of talking flowers.) The above pictures are from the original book, by John Tenniel.

I had already drafted this post when I came across this post on March Hare which includes a helpful bibliography of resources for those interested in Alice and in Little Red Riding Hood. I have so many books on my to-read list...

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