Sunday, February 3, 2013

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A girl falls down a rabbit hole to find a strange yet familiar world

Alice chases a muttering white rabbit down a deep hole. After experimenting with some comestibles that adjust her height, she figures out how to enter a beautiful garden. There she encounters talking rodents, murderous cards, and the lingering smile of a cryptic cat. The small animals and fishes behave immaturely, while Alice is constantly trying to remember and apply her manners and her mathematics. Everything is so odd that Alice starts to doubt that she is, in fact, a “little girl.” She plays a crazy game of croquet and participates in a trial concerning stolen tarts. The trial ends badly and Alice finds herself back home.

The prose begs to be read out loud, like poetry. The story works on many levels, but its essence is silliness and the silliness is so absurd it reaches around to the other side and becomes wise. The dreamlike story (for can you call it a novel?) feels very English to me, the way Alice insists upon the manners and the forms even while a Queen is calling for everyone’s beheading.

The best part is the Cheshire Cat’s smile.

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