Today's Guest Editorial comes to us from loyal reader Linda Hedrick, among whose many interests are all things Alice...
"And how do you know that you're mad?"
"To begin with," the Cat said, "a dog's not mad. You grant that?"
"I suppose so," said Alice.
"Well then," the Cat went on, "you see a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad."
Friday, March 5th, the new Tim Burton film Alice in Wonderland opened in the United States. Not an adaptation of the original book by Lewis Carroll, the Burton story occurs after the action in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly known as Alice in Wonderland) and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, and, What Alice Found There (shortened to Through the Looking-Glass):
In Burton’s story Alice returns to Wonderland to visit her friends and finds that they are all being terrorized by the Red Queen, and so she joins in their resistance. This isn’t the first time that Carroll’s books have been catalysts for fantastic stories.
Lewis Carroll is the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematician at Christ Church (Cambridge), who also wrote many significant books on mathematics and mathematical logic [Ed. Note: see our post of 12 June 2009]. A lover of mental games, he invented early versions of Scrabble and Word Ladders. His inclusion of chess in his work reveals his interest in logic, games, and math. His brilliant use of symbolism, double entendre, hidden meanings, wordplay, and witticisms shine in the Alice books, as do his poems and songs. Martin Gardner, an authority on Lewis Carroll, looks at the puns, illusions, and puzzles within the Alice books in his Annotated Alice, and in two sequels that expanded Gardner’s annotations:
Carroll's personal copy of Alice sold at auction to an anonymous American buyer for $1.54 million in 1998 – the most expensive children’s book ever sold prior to J. K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard in 2007. Carroll's dedication copy (inscribed by Dodgson to Alice Liddell) of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (a facsimile of the original manuscript version of the original title) sold for £157,250 at Sotheby's (London) in 2001.
The Alice books are considered seminal examples of the fantasy genre. To say they have been influential is a gross understatement. When it was published, with illustrations by John Tenniel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was an immediate hit with both adults and children. The entire first run immediately sold out. Quirky, silly, and fun, it has never been out of print, and there have been hundreds of editions, as well as countless adaptations:
To collect all the Alice-influenced books would be a major endeavor. There was a primary wave of books which slackened after 1920, although it has never waned. Film, television, comics, anime, songs (think Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit or The Beatles I am the Walrus, for example) and several computer games are among many other Alice-influenced works. Terms from the book have entered the English language, such as “curiouser and curiouser,” “down the rabbit-hole”, and “off with her head!” to name but a few.
The first retelling of the story may have been Carroll’s own The Nursery “Alice” which was a shorter version written for younger children. There have been countless “sequels” which feature a slightly different Alice, different locations and/or adventures, and which focus on different characters or events.
To collect Alice books, one should decide where to start. One could spend one’s entire life on it and perhaps never be done. One could start by collecting all the English language versions of them, which number in the hundreds, with more being published all the time. Collecting foreign translations would be interesting, including Vladimir Nabakov’s 1923 Russian translation (modern reprint depicted below):
One also could collect volumes with different illustrators. Salvador Dali illustrated a limited edition by Random House in 1969. To start with any of these strategies, besides booksellers, one can contact one or all of the many Lewis Carroll societies around the world. There also is a wealth of literary criticism of Carroll’s works as well as numerous biographies of Carroll that one could collect.
There are many works that are clearly influenced by Carroll, such as John Crowley’s Little, Big, or the short story Mimsy were the Borogoves (1943) by Lewis Padgett (a pseudonym for C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner), which was deemed to be one of the best science fiction stories written prior to 1965 by the Science Fiction Writers of America.
To further expand one’s Alice collection significantly, one could add the many books that reference Alice, such as Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited or Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera.
Alicious, twinstreams twinestraines, through alluring glass or alas in jumboland?
Wonderlawn’s lost us for ever. Alis, alas, she broke the glass! Liddell lokker through the leafery, ours is mystery of pain....