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.
Do you know that Lewis Carroll invented the Word Ladder game?
(My solution, btw, is different from his:
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:
Too long. Shorter:
Finally I came up with something shorter:
Not bad, hmm?
How do you go from LIVE to DEAD?
The solution I got was:
Too long, I think. A bit googling gave me another solution:
The number of steps is the same. Could you find a shorter solution?