I finished Lewis Carroll’s novella, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in one day, most of it in one sitting. I had the pleasure of reading it from the elegantly bound, beautifully illustrated, gilded edged, Barnes and Noble 2010 edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Other Stories, with an insightful introduction by Leonard S. Marcus. I read the last third of the story aloud to my wife over tea--a delightful experience, as reading the book aloud is clearly how Mr. Carroll intended his tale to be enjoyed, and pausing for sips of hot tea created a magical atmosphere--at times, I almost expected to look up from reading to see the March Hare and Mad Hatter having cups along with my wife and me.
Fiction writers usually ask their readers to suspend belief and just enjoy their stories. Mr. Carroll does not really ask--he insists. I was, of course, familiar with the story before I read it, so I was at least prepared, but readers of Alice’s Adventures really must be willing to let go or be let down. I personally found it easy accept the ever changing realities of Wonderland, but believe that not every reader would be able to do the same.
Those unable or unwilling to suspend belief could still enjoy Alice’s Adventures as a book of nonsense, full of puns and poetry that easily roll off the tongue--an inspiration for books such as The Phantom Tollbooth. As Mr. Marcus points out in his introduction, some see Alice’s Adventures as a satire mocking the value of traditional childhood education, as when the Dodo attempts to dry his friends and Alice, who were soaked in a flood of Alice’s tears, by reciting a “dry” lesson in history. Still others see the tale as an elaborate metaphor for the awkwardness of the growth spurts and other changes to the body that occur during adolescence. I understand all that, but, for me, Wonderland will always be exactly what the word implies--a land of wonder.