How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: Alice in Wonderland

“Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are!”

Maybe what Alice said of the Jabberwocky poem in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland isn’t entirely accurate for my experience reading this book and its sequel Through the Looking Glass, but it’s cute to start out articles with quotes.

Arthur Rackham's illustration - wikimedia commons

This was another children’s classic that I visited this year for the first time, quite different from Heidi … but still about a little girl. Although I understand why some have reservations toward it, I wanted to see what it was like for myself and so tried to come at it with no preconceptions; and I enjoyed it for the most part. To me, it read like a dream you would have in the middle of the night, a long, unbroken dream that you don’t remember when you wake up but would read very much like Alice’s experiences if you could write it down. It was quirky and made me laugh, because dreams morph nonsensically from one thing to another and yet still maintain a sort of plot, just like these two books. In dreams, people say things that don’t make sense, and objects and issues that you ponder in your waking hours often appear, albeit in surprising forms. Alice in Wonderland was like that. Childhood’s imaginative ramblings play a big role in the plot—cards and flowers and chess pieces could talk and have adventures—as did mixed-up school lessons, in history, grammar, and the like, At times the nonsense got to be a little too much for me, but then came amusing wordplay and logical (or illogical!) reasoning to save my good opinion.

The quotes you can take from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871) were one of my favorite parts; these books seem made for snipping out phrases and sentences that put a different spin on a variety of topics. One of my first exposures, long before I read Lewis Carroll’s classics, was this quote on my Wordly Wise vocabulary workbook:

“‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’”
(Appropriate for a vocabulary book, no? She’s talking to Humpty Dumpty about his misuse of words—he thinks a word “means just what [he] choose[s] it to mean—neither more nor less.”)

Here are some others I enjoyed:

“‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ [asked Alice.]
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.” (So true!)

“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.” - The Duchess 

(I find this to be true, and even good advice for living! It makes you contemplate the choices you make daily.)

“I don’t see how he can ever finish it, if he doesn’t begin.” - Alice, of the Mock Turtle 

(Good advice for procrastinators, especially for writers, since Alice was waiting for him to begin a story)

“‘Begin at the beginning,’” the King said, gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’” 

(Works for my brain, but granted, there are writers and other creative individuals who must do things differently)

“Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are!” - Alice, of the Jabberwocky poem 

(I can say the same of several poems I have read)

Have you ever read Alice in Wonderland? What do you think of it? Too weird for your tastes, or delightfully peculiar?

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