Saturday, January 23, 2010

Alice in Wonderland, Revisited

Next up for my Ladies' Book Club are Lewis Carroll's  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Alice is experiencing a revival these days (she's BIG again) with a new Tim Burton film, featuring Johnny Depp, coming out later this year. I have friends working on an Alice play, too, that sounds quite fascinating: details to follow. In the meantime, settle back for a few minutes to be charmed by this silent film from 1903. It's wonderful, corrosion and all. I will probably like this version better than any other Alice on film.

Rereading the books, I realize that they were far from my favorites as a child – I think they made me anxious. So much rudeness! (Something I still despise.) Random this and random that! That crazy Red Queen! My Alice was suffering a crisis of ontological insecurity that obscured some of the pleasures of the text. I see those (the word play, the wild scenic juxtapositions, Alice's psychic bravado) more clearly now. Whatever else, she is an enduring cultural artifact, adaptable to many times and places. That's as it should be for a girl given to jumping down a rabbit hole, passing bravely through a looking glass.

What are your memories and thoughts about Alice?


Lyle Daggett said...

One of my great childhood memories -- I was maybe 8 or 9 years old -- was my dad reading Alice in Wonderland out loud to me, the whole book. (A chapter or two every couple of evenings.)

Have you ever seen Salvador Dali's illustrations for Alice in Wonderland? They're online here. (In the page at the above link, click on the links for "Heliogravures 1 thru 6" and "Heliogravures 7 thru 12" to go to the images of the illustrations. Once you get there, you can click on the individual images to show larger versions of them.

(The small figure, a girl flipping a jump-rope, that occurs in several of the images, is Dali's depiction of Alice.)

As I recall, the illustrations were used in the book in a special edition of, I think, 500 copies. I saw one of the copies, with original prints of the illustrations, I guess it would have been fall 1972, in the Kerlan rare book collection at the University of Minnesota.

Needless to say, the originals are far more brilliant with color, far more vivid and alive, than the webpage reproductions (which themselves aren't bad as web images go). I've never forgotten them.

elena said...

Those Dalis are amazing, Lyle – thank you for directing us there. And indeed: Alice is a book that should be read aloud. I wish I had read it to my children.

Serial Susan said...

I have on my bookshelf the 2001 Lewis Carroll's Alice Sotheby acution catalog--wish I could loan it to you next door! But you can see some of the amazing images (including an array of cover designs) online:

elena said...

Thanks, Susse!

ArtSparker said...

Alice is either about a child faced with the illogic of adult life, or maybe it's a prescient metaphor for Newtonian physics colliding with quantum mechanics.

elena said...

Yes: both of those and also about language, conversational misfires, speech acts and (mis)interpretation.

Thanks for visiting, Susan...I have been having a great time perusing your blog!