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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Alice in Wonderland I -- My Introduction

From once newspaper man and pulp-fictionalist Vincent Starrett (as appears reprinted in The Annotated Alice, by Martin Gardner):

Alice, Where Art Thou?

Quaint child, old-fashioned Alice, lend your dream:
I would be done with modern story-spinners,
Follow with you the laughter and the gleam:
Weary am I, this night, of saints and sinners.
We have been friends since Lewis and old Tenniel
Housed you immortally in red and gold.
Come! Your naivete is a spring perennial:
Let me be young again before I'm old.

You are a glass of youth: this night I choose
Deep in your magic labyrinths to stray,
Where rants the Red Queen in her splendid hues
And the White Rabbit hurries on his way.
Let us once more adventure, hand in hand:
Give me belief again—in Wonderland!

—Vincent Starrett, in Brillig (Chicago: Dierkes Press, 1949)

"The King and Queen of Hearts,"
taken from www.johntenniel.com
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass...,which together I consider essentially one book as I consider Tolkien's trilogy one in The Lord of the Rings, is my favorite book.  Its immeasurable intrinsic value combines with a thick personal nostalgia and result in, dare I say though I feel it so, a spiritual reverence for the work.  This is not to say that Alice is a spiritual book or resource--certainly it is not.  The book means something to me.  Aside from its dominant contribution to my love of books and writing, especially creative writing (aside: the reading of Alice is itself a creative experience, demonstrating a level of brilliance ("brilliance" in both terms of light and intellect) I've never found in any other work-- ; and "creative experience" not inasmuch as it's a reading of something immensely creative, but that the very act of reading Alice renders the reader essentially creatively productive), it has a beauty missed by so many that is, well, a kind of private indulgence.  It is this element--the deep and oft-buried beauty--that I hope to elucidate.

I encourage you to study up a bit on the tragic and variegated person and genius of Charles Dodgson.  If you do, please approach him with the all the humanity you can garner.  This was a man of extraordinary empathy, lost amidst his "rightful" peers, and robbed of his natural affiliates.  This reading of his primary creative works will approach them as ode in the first and elegy in the second.


  1. Now that is high praise. I hope that this time I'll be able to join you in giving it that much praise because I've always considered it a truly great book, but not in the upper, celestial stratosphere reserved for "East of Eden", "Lord of the Rings", "The Sound and the Fury", and "Moby-Dick".

  2. Yes. It is that good.

    I will say that things don't open up quite to that level until we get to Looking Glass.

  3. I'm not sure if this is for personal history with the books or something more broadly applicable, but I actually pare Alice more closely in quality and depth with The Divine Comedy. I believe I can justify that as well, which I may do when we're done.


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