The Alice Craze

Posted on March 13, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction | Tags: , , , , , |

Yes, I’m adding to it, but I haven’t seen the movie. I’m still debating on it. A friend asked me to go with him, and I’m thinking of saying yes if I can convince him to pay for my ticket. 😉 Poor unemployed girl needs someone else to help her out. Haha.

Image Credit: The Victorian Web

I know everyone’s all up in arms over Burton’s adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but I’ve never been a huge Burton fan. Sure, he’s a great director, but I’m not one of the people who makes plans to see his next hit movie each time it rolls into theaters.

So all that is to say: I’m not writing this because of the movie.

I am writing this because of Stacy and Alice I Have Been. Like a lot of people, I’ve seen the Disney adaptation that pulls elements of Wonderland and its sort-of sequel Through the Looking-Glass and then twists them in the way only Disney can. I didn’t really like the movie as a kid, so I never bothered to read the book.

Well, I’m here to admit it. I should have read the books before. After reading Wonderland and Looking-Glass, I wanted to kick myself for not getting a perspective on this world as a child. What would my opinion have been reading this book when I was 7?

Would I have, like with so many other tales–both book and film,–fallen into my own rabbit hole of fantasy and adventure? I was disappointed when I found no wardrobes to peek in after Narnia. I pretended to be whisked off to an English manor home from India where all manner of mysteries and secrets waited to be uncovered after The Secret Garden. Would I have searched out holes in the ground to fall into after Wonderland or attempted to press through mirrors after Looking-Glass?

It’s really a pity I’ll never know.

However, I do know that I enjoy Lewis Carroll’s tales, especially now that I’ve read them in preparation for Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been. I’m reading Benjamin’s book now, and it’s already fascinating after one chapter. But I’m here to speak to my take on Carroll. It’s one classic I really, truly, thoroughly enjoyed.

Aside from reading the notes in the Modern Library Classics edition of the book I got, I also read every footnote and the poems and letter thrown in at beginning and end for more perspective on Carroll. It’s intriguing because many scholars speculate that Carroll was some sort of Victorian pedophile with his collection of child friends whom he took on boat rides and told fantastical stories to. I think that’s a shame.

Carroll was a don at Christ Church, Oxford, where he taught mathematics. During his years at the school, he met the new Dean, a Mr. Liddell whose three daughters became Carroll’s young friends. The middle daughter was Alice Liddell, and as most of us can guess: the rest is history.

I love speculation as much as the next person, but really? I have no idea whether Carroll was attempting to court Alice in her early days at Oxford. It makes for a great story, though, especially considering he was 30 to her 7 years old, and he was required to remain celibate as a don.

I can hear the old gossips of Victorian Oxford now.

“Where is that young man headed?”

“Why, don’t you know? That’s Mr. Dodgson. Of course, he’s off to the Deanery to see the Liddell girls.”

“You don’t say! But truly he couldn’t be off to see them, could he? Surely you mean he’s off to counsel with the Dean. I hear he teaches mathematics, and you know those young men can grow boisterous–”

“No, I’m certain he goes to see the Liddell girls. Louisa was telling me yesterday he actually takes them to the field and plays with them, of all the–”

Well, you can see where that conversation was headed. 😉 I do believe we haven’t deviated much from those old hens and their tales of impropriety.

If you’re like me and you read the Alice tales, you’ll be enthralled by the vivid world of Carroll’s creation. But more than that I found myself immersed in a world where sense doesn’t have to make sense and nonsense more often than not has a thread of sense in it. Logic is illogic, and if I’m not careful, I’ll begin to sound like Big Brother and make mathematical errors that Carroll would have most likely corrected in his classes.

The lack of plot in both Alice books would normally make me shudder and run in the opposite direction, but it doesn’t. Instead, I embraced the Wonderland and Looking-Glass worlds with arms wide open, not expecting any sense to be found. And I was delighted because Carroll changed my opinion, perhaps not as intended but certainly in a good way, through his Alice.

As I watched Alice make her way through this zany new world, I noticed something intriguing. Originally I cheered the little girl in her white pinafore on because I felt she was the only one making sense in a strange land. But my opinion flip-flopped. I still cheered her on, but it was towards finding the peculiar formula of illogic that made the Looking-Glass world go round rather than towards finding her way back home again. And the other characters with their obvious misinterpretations and ridiculous rules became more and more sensible to me.

I may be the only one who feels that way, but it truly is what endeared the Alice tales to me. By changing my perspective in a world so far from normal, Carroll challenged me. And I always love a challenge.

I could go on and on. I gained quite a bit of insight from this simple children’s tale. But I’m already overdoing it. So what’s your take on the Alice craze? Enlighten me!

-Rae-

P.S. Sorry for the gigantic photo – for some reason it didn’t want to edit!

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5 Responses to “The Alice Craze”

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I’ve read Alice and Looking Glass. As far as I can tell, its not a remake but a sequel that Burton’s made. Okay, well just looked it up so its more of a reinterpretation- same elements but with Alice returning as an almost-grownup. I’ll probably see it. It looks visually stunning, but I’m a bit disappointed that Burton appears to have made it a bit darker. The whole point of Alice imo is that its light and quirky and fantasy. Why does Burton have to make most of his movies creepy?

I am hoping though, since I’ve loved Alice so long and collect tea things, that they’ll be stocking lots of tea merchandise ala Alice. So that’s a plus. 🙂

Mmm… hot tea. That makes me want to find a teapot and teacup ala Alice now. But not something manufactured strictly for the movie. I may have to do some research on it and see what I can find.

I think the creepy thing is Burton’s gig as is his casting – don’t all his movies feature Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (or whatever his wife’s name is) in some form or fashion? I guess I expect all Burton movies to be dark to some degree. And I agree: Alice should be lighter and full of fun even if the characters are more confusing than endearing.

I haven’t read Through the Looking Glass, but I have read Alice in Wonderland. A lot of Carroll’s work is in the public domain.

I laughed at your speculative dialogue, I think you’ll do well at writing historical fiction.

And my answer to your first question, “Go.” See the film, why not? It’ll just be something fun to do.

-Ed

I may have to go see the movie. It will be nice cause I’m sure I’ll want to get away from the house in the next few weeks. It’s going to be rough – I may have to call my friend or go see it by myself.

Thanks! I had fun writing the dialogue. And I can totally see two matronly women conversing, one holding her quizzing glass as she eyes Dodgson curiously, the other turning up her nose at the sight of the unfortunate object of gossip.

I have to confess I haven’t read either book, even though I own both. I don’t have a lot of patience with riddles and such. I always liked the Alice story as a movie or play though.

I loved Alice I Have Been though (obviously). I hope you’ll like it too.

Silly story. I was glad to find out Alice Liddell was actually a brunette. In 11th grade, I played Alice in my theatre class production, and some girl referred to me as the “generic Alice with brown hair.” I’m glad to know I was a proper Alice after all.


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