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Annotated Alice (Review)

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The Annotated Alice
Lewis Carroll, 1865; Martin Gardner, 1960
384 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
February 2007

Not just for kids. Alice has been relegated to the nursery long enough; let's bring her back into adult company.

For starters, Carroll’s tale is a very funny piece of work. Its cryptic, sophisticated humor—based on logic, math, and wordplay—flies over the heads of most children…adults, too, for that matter. There's another reason to resurrect Alice. Her adventures strike a deep chord in our cultural psyche. Literature, linguistics, politics, science, religion, pop culture, and psychology have been making references to Alice for 140 years.

Clearly her tale resonates. The reason it does so could easily be a college seminar topic...or a book club discussion.

Reading this version opens up Alice's wit and humor. Gardner’s notes are lucid and illuminating, if occasionally a bit dense (you can skip over some), but without his help, it's almost impossible for any of us today to be in on the jokes.

His opening introduction offers a fascinating, though slightly disturbing, portrait of Charles Dodgson (Carroll’s real name). Dodgson was a strange duck, very strange, and reading about his fascination with young girls somewhat colored my reading of his tales. You might want to save the intro for later, but do read it.

More than anything, however, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass are just plain fun to read. And this annotated version deserves a spot on everyone’s bookshelf, children's and adults' alike.

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