In two continuous commentaries, woven around the complete text of the novel for ease of cross-reference on every page, David Day reveals the many layers of teaching, concealed by manipulation of language, that are carried so lightly in the beguiling form of a fairy tale. These layers relate directly to Carroll's interest in philosophy, history, mathematics, classics, poetry, spiritualism and even to his love of music--both sacred and profane. His novel is a memory palace, given to Alice as the great gift of an education. It was delivered in coded form because in that age, it was a gift no girl would be permitted to receive in any other way.
Day also shows how a large number of the characters in the book are based on real Victorians. Wonderland, he shows, is a veritable "Who's Who" of Oxford at the height of its power and influence in the Victorian Age.
There is so much to be found behind the imaginary characters and creatures that inhabit the pages of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. David Day's warm, witty and brilliantly insightful guide--beautifully designed and stunningly illustrated throughout in full colour--will make you marvel at the book as never before.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-12-07
- Reviewer: Staff
Day (A Dictionary of Tolkien) ably reinterprets Carroll's famous text as a classical primer in disguise, identifying connections with mathematics, theosophy, politics, and philosophy. Day argues that the various existing valid interpretations from these perspectives together constitute a complete classical education, which Carroll intended to impart "secretly and subliminally" to his favorite child-friend, Alice Liddell. Even if the reader isn't ultimately convinced of this conclusion, the various premises Day brings together are strong enough to intrigue anyone who is not already familiar with them. Carroll's text is illustrated with a mix of art by John Tenniel, the book's original illustrator, and later artists; Day's annotations and sidebars include classical mythological art, historical paintings, and photographs. Though this is a handsome addition to any collection of Alice analysis, it inexplicably lacks a full treatment of Through the Looking-Glass, making it a poor substitute for the new edition of Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice. Likewise, its biographical content (throughout and in a concluding section) is no substitute for Morton Cohen's new edition of Lewis Carroll: A Biography. Day's classical interpretation may make this work more popular among academic readers than recreational ones. (Oct.)
A long, strange trip: 150 years of 'Alice'
It’s a story that never goes out of style: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s chronicle of an inquisitive girl lost in a parallel world of talking animals and pompous royals, is a tale unlike any other—one that celebrates the complexities of language, the singular genius of children and the absurdity that lurks just beneath the surface of reality.
In honor of the novel’s 150th anniversary, we’ve rounded up a trio of new Alice-related titles, all of which prove that Wonderland still has mysteries well worth exploring.
David Day combines the expertise of an academic with the fervor of a true Alice enthusiast in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Decoded. In a remarkable act of literary excavation, Day exposes the historical references, classical allusions and subtly disguised symbols that he thinks Carroll embedded in the tale of Wonderland as lessons for his protégé, Alice Liddell. Day believes Carroll included these elements to round out the narrow education Alice would’ve received as a female in the Victorian age. It’s an intriguing theory, and he supports it impressively throughout Decoded. The volume includes Carroll’s novel in full, supplemented by Day’s observations as he painstakingly traces the various themes—music and philosophy, mathematics and poetry—that run through Carroll’s narrative, proving along the way that Alice, even as it celebrates the absurd, exhibits airtight logic. Richly illustrated, this is a book Alice addicts will find irresistible.
A WONDERLAND HANDBOOK
No reader should plunge into Wonderland without taking Martin Gardner along as guide. The celebrated Carroll expert published The Annotated Alice in 1960 to great acclaim and popularity—more than a million copies are currently in print. In the intervening decades, Gardner, who died in 2010, continued to pick at the riddles of Wonderland—the numerical enigmas and verbal brainteasers that make the text so perplexing—and his findings are shared in The Annotated Alice: 150th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. This comprehensive volume collects all of Gardner’s notes, his correspondence with Carroll critics and his introductions to previous Alice-related works. Filled with breathtaking illustrations by a wide range of artists, including Beatrix Potter and Salvador Dalí, the book offers invaluable insights into the Victorian mores, literary movements and real-life elements that inform Alice’s adventure, including all manner of Carroll arcana (it seems the writer, like the White Rabbit, had a fixation on gloves). For the latest in Alice analysis, Gardner’s your man.
The Nursery Alice (1890) from The Annotated Alice: 150th Anniversary Deluxe Edition.
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
As he proved in Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire is a wiz when it comes to taking a fresh angle on a classic tale and spinning it into a fully formed story—one that lives up to its distinguished lineage. In his new book, After Alice, he works his customary magic, using Carroll’s story as a springboard for his own inventive novel. Maguire casts Alice’s friend Ada (who is mentioned briefly in Carroll’s narrative) as a leading character. When Alice disappears down the rabbit hole, Ada pursues her. In Wonderland, she encounters the usual suspects (including the pipe-smoking Caterpillar and unsettling Cheshire Cat), as well as a number of new—and equally eccentric—inhabitants. Meanwhile, back in the rational world, Charles Darwin, Walter Pater and other Victorian-era personages provide a rich contrast to Ada’s surreal adventures. The blend of fact and fiction results in a magical addition to the literature of Wonderland. Maguire and Alice: It’s a pairing Carroll himself would’ve consecrated.