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Saturday, 5 March 2016

How to approach Lewis Carroll's Alice books- For dummies, and Let's play Lewis Carroll's Word Ladder game

Going around the internet, I'm baffled by many readers' response to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. How can they read those books that way? I mean, do they need guidelines? 
Let me help. 
- Treat them as fairy tales. 
- Don't expect a plot; don't cling to assumptions about what (Victorian) novels should do or shouldn't do. 
- Don't look for an explicit moral message; don't expect Alice to learn something (Who are you? The Duchess? "And the moral of that is..."). 
- Focus on language; enjoy the logic games, word play, puns... and the characters; just have fun. 
- Don't expect the books to be exactly like the adaptations and resent them for not being so. 
- Separate Lewis Carroll from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, i.e. get rid of all the theories about his sexuality.
What do I see when reading the Alice books? I see a logical, mathematical mind combined with a rich imagination and love of the grotesque. Being a logician that is also interested in language, Lewis Carroll notices, and jokes about, the illogicality of the English language. And he's an inventor- he makes up words and creates worlds and invents games. What a pity it is to read books as brilliant and delightful and complex as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and see them as nothing but products of a diseased mind! Sigh. 




Come to think of it, these are of course "rules" for approaching novels in general, not just Lewis Carroll's Alice books. 




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For fun: 
Do you know that Lewis Carroll invented the Word Ladder game
Examples: 
- CAT 
COT 
DOT
DOG
- HEAD 
HEAL 
TEAL 
TELL 
TALL 
TAIL
(My solution, btw, is different from his: 
HEAD 
HEAL 
HELL 
HALL 
TALL 
TAIL)
- APE 
APT 
OPT 
OAT 
MAT 
MAN 
The Wikipedia page quotes Nabokov as saying "some of my records are: hate—love in three, lass—male in four, and live—dead in five (with "lend" in the middle)". 
From HATE to LOVE. The solution I got: 
HATE 
GATE 
GAVE 
GIVE 
LIVE 
LOVE 
Too long. Shorter: 
HATE 
HAVE 
CAVE 
COVE 
LOVE 
Finally I came up with something shorter: 
HATE 
LATE 
LAVE 
LOVE 
Not bad, hmm? 
How do you go from LIVE to DEAD? 
The solution I got was: 
LIVE 
LINE 
LANE 
LAND 
LEND 
LEAD 
DEAD 
Too long, I think. A bit googling gave me another solution: 
LIVE 
LOVE 
LORE 
LORD 
LOAD 
LEAD 
DEAD 
The number of steps is the same. Could you find a shorter solution? 

13 comments:

  1. I found another solution but just as long:

    LIVE
    HIVE
    HIRE
    HERE
    HERD
    HEAD
    DEAD

    MAybe Nobokov wasn't so good at counting, eh? ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I found a website, a programme, that solved word ladders, and this is its answer:
      LIVE
      DIVE
      DIRE
      DIRL
      DIAL
      DEAL
      DEAD
      Just as long. I don't even think "dirl" is a word.
      This bothers me though.

      Delete
    2. But for "dirl" i would have solved it as i tried the tack myself.

      Delete
    3. WAit.... This is "just as long". I didn't see it before and thought this was 'the' solution (Nabokov's - or as we now know Kinbote's - that is.)

      Hmm....

      Delete
  2. Well, maybe Nabokov's character has trouble counting. That quote and those records belong to Charles Kinbote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't even spell the name correctly, so who am i to say? But let us sue Di for spreading misinformation.

      Delete
  3. Since Kinbote is so untrustworthy, I thought he might be lying about this scores, but LIVE to DEAD in five is possible. It requires a real but obscure English word, though - LENE, which replaces your LANE & LAND.

    The answer to LASS to MALE is in the Index of Pale Fire, or most of it is. One of the many fine jokes in the Index.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LIVE
      LINE
      LENE
      LEND
      LEAD
      DEAD
      What does "lene" mean?
      I haven't tried LASS to MALE. What's the answer? :D

      Delete
    2. Ah no, never mind, I got it.
      LASS
      MASS
      MASE
      MALE
      or
      LASS
      LASE
      MASE
      MALE
      Google Chrome doesn't know the word "mase", but it's in OED, so it's OK.

      Delete
  4. Actually the same can be done with "lind" which is an old English word ... but i don't know if it counts. I mean i had to look it up.

    ReplyDelete
  5. In the Pale Fire index, it's:
    LASS
    LAST
    MAST
    MALT
    MALE

    Not every step is in the index. You saved a step!

    LENE from the 1913 Webster's. Here it is in context (if the link works), a context that is gibberish to me but is the kind of thing Nabokov and Kinbote understood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did I just beat Kinbote? *open champagne*
      Thanks for the links. I don't get it, though.

      Delete