Alice in Wonderland was listed by the following authors in their top ten books:
Kate Atkinson, Robb Forman Dew, Sue Monk Kidd, Jonathan Lethem, David Lodge, Stewart O’Nan, and Robert Pinsky.
I had lofty plans for this week’s blog. First, I started Rabbit, Run by John Updike. I then lost Rabbit, Run by John Updike. Then I started Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. Then on the evening of the second of November, I decided to participate in this particular madness: http://nanowrimo.org/. So, of course, Daniel Deronda was out. I found Alice in Wonderland as an amazing replacement.
Wonderland is a story that has taken its place in our collective consciousness. Most people know parts of this story without ever really knowing the story. Many know the basics of the story from having seen any of the countless versions of it out there. Some people know bits of it without knowing any of the story (“We’re all a little mad here”).
A lot of Carroll’s original tale dealt with issues of the day that he mixed into his little children’s tale (written for a real Alice). That’s part of what makes it genius. The description of a “caucus race” that the animals and a miniature Alice use to dry off, which oddly still describes politics to this day.
“Why,” said the Dodo, “the best way to explain it is to do it.” First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no “One, two, three and away!” but they began running when they liked and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half a hour or so and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out, “The race is over!” and they all crowded round it panting and asking “But who has won?”.
However, so many people spend so much time analyzing and dissecting Alice in Wonderland, that I think they truly forget what it originally was. A children’s tale. Yes, that’s right, it was a story thought up by a man on a boat for a bored little ten year old girl. It was meant to entertain and pass her time. You know, like we hand our tablets to our kids with Netflix pre-loaded on it to avoid boredom? This was the 1800s. People had to make it up if they wanted entertainment.
I really would encourage you, if you decide to read Alice in Wonderland at some point, to not read it with a whole intent to analyze and dissect. Read it for what it began as. A children’s story. You will spend your visit with Alice, The Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and “Off with her head!” Queen charmed and beguiled. Or you could try to analyze it, and spend your time in Wonderland with a headache trying to decide if Carroll was commenting on drugs or mathematics. Was he making a social or political commentary? Was he a pedophile or not.
Why ruin a good story with all of that stuff?