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Oxford World’s Classics Book Club: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

“Begin at the beginning,”, the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop”

Today we are launching the Oxford World’s Classics Book Club. The first week of every month we will pick a book and give you a month to read it. alice.jpg

We’re all mad here.

Then at the end of the month we will tell you what we thought and invite you to share your opinions. Of course, all opinions count, mad or otherwise.

“Tut, tut, child,” said the Duchess. “Everything’s got a moral if only you can find it.”

So get yourself a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and be sure to check the blog again the last week in April so you can weigh in on the morals of Alice’s fantasyland.

Recent Comments

  1. Kate Lyon

    Kia ora from New Zealand

    It’s good to see a discussion group on Carroll’s works up and running. Check out the Lewis Carroll Society of NZ – you’re welcome to join our elist which should be up and running in the next day or so. Our members in New Zealand – there’s round 100 or so – are farflung, but hopefully some may join in your discussion – I would certainly like to.

    Check out our site, which is just in the process of being revamped, and feel free to post to our list, or submit articles for online publication. We here in NZ are longing to find friends in other parts of the world – it’s a little difficult studying Carroll over here as there is a definite shortage of source material.

    Best, Kate Lyon
    http://www.lcsnz.org

  2. Cloud

    I am pleased to see this book club launched. Surprising that it had not sooner!

    I just stumpled upon it yesterday. I am hoping that there will be responses to Alice’s Adventures.

    I am looking forward to seeing what the month of May book.

  3. [...] isn’t our Oxford World’s Classics discussion day (hence my bad pun about an “unblogday”). Don’t be too upset [...]

  4. Cloud

    Very good pun, actually. Bad turn out, unfortunately.

    Being that I stumbled upon this blog late in the month, I did not have time to get my hands on a copy of Alice’s Adventures. I was hoping to find some discussion here.

    My impression is that this book club needs to be promoted much better.

  5. Rebecca

    Hello Cloud-
    I think it is a bit early to judge the turnout as the discussion is not until Thursday! You still have time to explore Alice’s world and join the conversation.

  6. Cloud

    Hello Rebecca!

    Oh, great!! I didn’t know that the discussion is not until then.
    I shall try to find a copy. My local public library only had “very” juvenile copies. I would like to locate Oxford’s.
    Thank you for your reply!!!

  7. [...] finally book club day! Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a pretty quick read (and I’m not bragging but I [...]

  8. Cloud

    I ended up downloaded Adventures of Alice Under Ground…apparently Carrol’s first MS. I will have time this weekend to find Alice’s follow-up adventures. Is that how he wrote them? I am new to reading his works.

  9. Cloud

    Anyway, I am enjoying the read. Pretty cool. I recall that my sister-in-law, years ago, did not want my nephews to read Alice’s adventures, lest they be influenced by Carroll’s supposedly being under the influence of LSD while writing. Any truth to that rumor? Wouldn’t be surprising, given the content.

  10. Cloud

    Anyone out there? Mary Ann! Mary Ann!

  11. Cloud

    The Mouse has a “long and sad tale;” printed in the shape of a mouse tail.

    The three sisters who live at the bottom of the well; learning to draw – drawing water.

  12. Jen

    This is punny :-)

    `Why, there they are!’ said the King triumphantly, pointing to the tarts on the table. `Nothing can be clearer than that. Then again–”before she had this fit–” you never had fits, my dear, I think?’ he said to the Queen.

    `Never!’ said the Queen furiously, throwing an inkstand at the Lizard as she spoke. (The unfortunate little Bill had left off writing on his slate with one finger, as he found it made no mark; but he now hastily began again, using the ink, that was trickling down his face, as long as it lasted.)

    `Then the words don’t fit you,’ said the King, looking round the court with a smile. There was a dead silence.

    `It’s a pun!’ the King added in an offended tone, and everybody laughed, `Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

  13. Jen

    Cloud wrote:

    I recall that my sister-in-law, years ago, did not want my nephews to read Alice’s adventures, lest they be influenced by Carroll’s supposedly being under the influence of LSD while writing. Any truth to that rumor? Wouldn’t be surprising, given the content.

  14. Jen

    For some reason, the whole text of my last post did not appear.
    In commenting on Cloud’s post, To summarize my response, LSD
    was not around in Carroll’s time, and it is highly unlikely that he ever used any kind of hallucinogen. He was a progressive thinker but
    conservative in his habits.

    Hope this helps, and hope this appears as I have written it.

    Jen

  15. Cloud

    Jen,
    Thank you for your reply. It is helpful to receive feed-back.
    What reliable sources did you draw your conclusions from? That LSD or some form of it were not around then? That I have a hard time believing.

  16. Coyotebones

    Hi Cloud, I looked up LSD on Wikipedia and it says it was first synthesized in 1938.

  17. Cloud

    Hello, Coyotebones

    Thanks.

    Even though not yet synthesized, it is not out of the question there were other forms…the poppy seed and “shrooms” certainly were around.

    Anyway, the point is that arguably, it is possible that Carroll was under the influence of a hallucinogen when writing about Alice.

    I am looking for May’s read…

  18. Rebecca

    Cloud-
    Be sure to check back tomorrow for next month’s book!

  19. Cloud

    Hello, Rebecca~

    I looked on OUP website…Home…so far have not seen May’s book. Am I missing something, or is it just not yet posted for today?

  20. [...] out last month’s converastion here: Introduction Puns Animals Mass Culture [...]

  21. Jen

    OK, since we are still on this subject, I wrote an essay that goes much into the subject of
    Alice/Carroll/psychedelia, it can be read here:
    http://writtens-jen.blogspot.com/2007/02/transformations.html

    It appeared in the Knight Letter, journal of the Lewis Carroll Society
    of North America.

    Jen

  22. Rebecca

    Cloud- You wake up too early! It’s up now…http://blog.oup.com/2007/05/secret_agent/

  23. Cloud

    The Secret Agent! Looks good!! I will pick-up a copy today.

  24. Cloud

    Hello, Jen,

    I read your essay. With all due respect, I don’t see how it in any factual or empirical based evidence way supports the position that Carroll was not, at least at some point of writing Alice, under the influence of some form of a hallucinegen drug.
    I would rather think that he was not, but I guess it is one of those things that we will never know for sure.
    Nice to see your photo! I may share one of myself; if at some juncture while on this blog it is fitting to do so.
    Are you familiar with the book for this month? I am not, but it certainly is one that has sparked my interest!

  25. Jen

    Hi Cloud, as I wrote in my essay, many people have had
    the same idea as you, that Carroll must
    have been tripping while writing “Alice In Wonderland.”

    Of course it’s true my conclusion, that this is highly unlikely, cannot be “proved” with hard evidence that would stand
    up in a court of law. On the other hand, such evidence is
    a bit difficult to come by. There’s nothing in his diaries about this,
    for example.

    So,my statement is an educated guess, blended with intuition.
    I’ve been fascinated with “Alice” and with Carroll since I
    first read the books as a girl, and have read biographies about him.
    Others who have also researched Carroll/Dodgson (the latter was
    his real name) have mostly reached the same conclusion.

    Aside from the hallucinogenic connection you perceive, what
    else sparks your interest in the book? What do you like about it?

  26. Cloud

    Jen,

    I will get back to you on concerning your question posed to me. I must cut my husband’s hair right at this moment; of all things!

    In the meantime, please don’t get me wrong; I truly adore Alice…Lewis Carroll’s creation.

    Soon…

  27. Jen

    Hey, Cloud, it’s been three days and counting, goodness, that
    must be some haircut! :)

    I was thinking today that I can understand the difficulty of discussing
    the Alice books. They are rich, complex works. And once you tumble down that rabbit hole, it can be hard to climb out again…

    For me, I think I was always entranced by the surreal atmosphere of the books, they opened new doors in my mind. David Lodge has said
    Alice in Wonderland is arguably the first great surrealist novel in the English language. He differentiates between magic realism and surrealism: “In magic realism there is always a tense connection between the real and the fantastic;: the impossible event is a kind of metaphor for the extreme paradoxes of modern history. In surrealism, metaphors *become* the real, effacing the world of reason and common sense. The Surrealists’ favorite analogy for their art, and often its source, was dreaming, in which, as Freud demonstrated, the unconscious reveals its secret desires and fears in vivid images and surprising narrative sequences unconstrained by the logic of our waking lives.”

  28. Cloud

    Hello, Jen!

    I am sorry for CUTTING out on you for such a time. Yes, it was quite the HARE-CUT, indeed.

  29. Cloud

    Jen,

    I have always been intrigued by the White Rabbit; and Alice’s first notice of him…in such a frantic hurry. And then that she actually got to experience his world.

    A couple of days ago I discovered a nest of baby bunnies in my backyard. I am so thrilled to see evidence of the mommy bunny having come back daily to take care of them…yet I never see her! So elusive. Just like the White Rabbit in Alice’s adventures.

    Truly, I love take a look at Alice publications which have great and colorful illustrations! Do you have any favorites of those that you can recommend?

    Also, are the Disney animations true to the original MS? My husband thinks that their are some characters that Disney has added.

    BY the way, have you ever meet Alice and some of the other characters at Disneyland or Disney World?

  30. Cloud

    Sorry for all of the typos above…I am moving along rather quickly. I’m late, I’m late – For a very important date!

  31. Jen

    Sigh…I get the picture, when I try to copy and paste and add my comments, it doesn’t work. Here are my responses to Cloud’s
    post, which did a Cheshire Cat disappearing act in my post above:

    Hi Cloud,

    LC (Lewis Carroll) doesn’t waste any time getting us into the
    story! Within the first few paragraphs Alice is down the rabbit hole
    and on her way to Wonderland.

    Awww, those baby bunnies must be soooo cute! I wish I could
    see them. What is the evidence you see of the mommy taking care of
    her chillen? I would think they would need to be suckling, or don’t
    bunnies do that?

    I’m not the one to ask for recommendations of books with colorful illustrations of the book, I prefer the black and white Tenniel illustrations, they are a big part of the surreal enchantment of the Alice books, for me. Funnily enough though, LC was very critical of
    Tenniel’s work! He had his own ideas of how the drawings should be done. He was quite good at drawing himself, although his work was never of professional quality. He illustrated his initial MS, Alice’s Adventures Underground, which can be read at Project Gutenberg:http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19002

    Re whether the Disney animations are true to the original–Disney is Disney, and their version of “Alice” is pretty good for what it is, but no, I don’t think it truly captures the spirit of the book, and more is left out than is added. I can’t think, offhand, of anything that was added.

    I think it’s unfortunate that for many people, the Disney animation has become inseparable from LC’s book, they are vastly different.

    I’ve never met any of the Wonderland characters at Disneyland, but if I did, I think I’d tell them they’re impostors.

    Just kidding. :-) I’d probably try to engage them in a discussion of
    the book!

  32. Cloud

    Jen,

    That is very funny…”imposters!” I will have to remember that one the nest time I have a discussion amidst my “Character Breakfast” at Disney World.

    I am renting on Netflix several versions of Alice in Wonderland. From what you have shared of your own preferences, I would think that you prefer not view a movie…leaving more to imagination amidst reading.

    Oh, concerning the bunnies in my backyard. The evidence that the mommy has been back is in how the nest covering is arranged from one day to the next.

    Initially I had marked the nest with two long dandelion stems, placed in an “X.” I was so very pleased to see that they had been tossed about by the next day, and the nest was nicely covered with dried straw, and gatherings of her fur peeking out. That is, she covers her bunnies with a blanket of her fur.

    Shifting to another book title, I have chosen at this time not read May’s pick…The Secret Agent. I have such a long list of books that I am wanting to read. Once I browsed through that one at the bookstore (Borders), it did not appeal to me as jumping to the top of my list, at this time.

    Actually, I have become interested in some of the reads on Borders Book Club. If you have an interest, please check out “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.” There is a video for viewing on the website…with the author. From what you have written here…I value your opinion.

    I will standby for your comments…

    A Very Merry Un-Mother’s Day!

    Cloud

  33. Jen

    Cloud, what’s that “Character Breakfast” thing about at Disney World?
    Sounds interesting. Do you work there?

    Yes, although I love movies in general, I much prefer Carroll’s books to any adaptations I’ve seen.

    Thanks for explaining about the bunnies and their elusive mommy!

    I enjoyed reading Secret Agent in college, don’t know if I will read
    it for next month’s discussion, like you, I have my reading plate full
    at this time (actually all the time). For that reason I will also have to pass on your book recommendation, but thanks for telling me about it, sounds good. Also, I don’t have computer capability for watching videos online.

    Merry Un-Mother’s Day to you also!

  34. Cloud

    Jen,

    Re: Disney – Character Breakfast. Various of characters walk around the restaurant and talk with guests, take pictures with, etc. It is really fun.

    I have had breakfast in that manner with Alice, The Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins, Tigger, Pooh…and lots more.

    By the way, I am curious as to the kind of work and/or study that you do…that would cause you to read so much. My reading of literature is purely recreational. My reading for the sake of “studying” in the area of marriage and family therapy…I am working on my state licensing for that.

  35. Jen

    Hi Cloud,

    The Character Breakfast does sound like fun! I am guessing you live close
    by Disney World? I’ve only been to Disneyland once, when I was a kid.

    You asked what kind of work or study I do that causes me to read so much. When you are a writer/editor it kind of goes with the
    territory. :) I get ideas for projects I want to do, which often require
    research. I tend to drag out the research though, I always feel there’s more I could learn before I get down to the actual writing. I guess another way of putting is is, I get stuck in the research. :) It’s different with poems, I don’t usually feel i have to do research first,
    although I did get the idea I wanted to write a poem about Anne Frank and I just finished re-reading Diary of a Young Girl. The last time I read it was in junior high school, I appreciated it much more this time around. She was a brilliant person, very perceptive, and her diary is fascinating. Death came quickly for her once the Nazis arrested them, in about six months. Sad, but she left a wonderful legacy in her diary.

    I was reading an essay by Donald Rackin today about Alice in Wonderland today, in the book
    Aspects Of Alice, titled “Alice’s Journey To The End Of Night.” Very good, although I don’t agree with all of it. Among other things, Rackin points out that Carroll’s initial MS is titled “Alice’s Adventures Underground” and says that might be a more appropriate title than “Wonderland” since the book is really about the subconscious, the “underground” realm below rational waking consciousness. He concludes that the Wonderland characters are ultimately more “real” than so-called reality, but that in waking life we must function as if they are not real, as if the chaotic subconscious is amusing “nonsense.”

    Does that make sense to you? :)

    Jen

  36. Cloud

    Mmmmm… I kind of, sort of get that…but I have no way of knowing if that makes sense. Basically, because I have no way of knowing if that is truth.

    What the “truth” is…is what I look for. I believe that the inerrant Word of God is the truth.

    The truth of what goes on in the minds of people…and their interpersonal relationships/dynamics is difficult for most to see/perceive. I know that I have a rare ability to perceive most…but getting others to see it is the major difficulty.

    And now I ask you…does that make sense to you? I know that it does to me.

    Cloud

  37. Jen

    HI Cloud, are you asking me if the Word of God is true and makes sense to me?
    Not sure what you mean…if God made everything, including words, then all words are true and make sense, no?

    In any case…I thought we were here to discuss Carroll’s book.

  38. Cloud

    Hey, Jen,

    What I wrote was my response to what you wrote…and the question you posed:

    {He concludes that the Wonderland characters are ultimately more “real” than so-called reality, but that in waking life we must function as if they are not real, as if the chaotic subconscious is amusing “nonsense.”

    Does that make sense to you?}

    And now, my response to your most recent comment, i.e.,

    {if God made everything, including words, then all words are true and make sense, no?}

    …is that it is a non sequitur.

  39. Jen

    Cloud, my reply to you did have some relevance to what you
    said, although it’s true I was playing with you a bit. And now I
    ask you, would you rather talk about your religion or about
    the book? Although I suppose it’s possible to link them somewhat.

  40. Jen

    Perhaps I ought to have my own discussion here, with myself,
    just as Alice herself does, throughout the book.

    “Come, there’s no use crying like that!” said Alice to herself rather
    sharply. “I advise you to leave off this minute!” She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her
    eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two
    people. “But it’s no use now,” thought poor Alice, “to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one
    respectable person!”

    :)

  41. Cloud

    Hello there, Jen~

    Actually, it is possible to link the topics of Lewis Carroll and my faith; which is Christianity. For example, check-out this link:

    http://www.acmsonline.org/Neuhouser-Lewis%20Carroll.pdf

    Claudia

  42. Jen

    Continuing this stimulating discussion with myself:

    Lewis Carroll thought life was a dream…and so, the dream-tales
    of the Alice books are about life. They are much more than just fiction. He also saw life as a school for soul growth; “Life is really a sort of school, or training-time, meant chiefly for the building up of character, and of disciplining the spirit.” This too is reflected in many instances in the Alice books, i.e.: “How the creatures order one about, and make one repeat lessons! I might as well be at school at once.” Games are another theme of the books. In Alice in Wonderland, we have playing cards and croquet; in Through The Looking-Glass, chess. So life is a dream, a school, and a game. Alice (All Us) in Wonderland, dreaming, learning, and playing.

  43. Jen

    Carroll himself wrote the following to a friend in America, when asked about the meaning of ‘The Hunting of the Snark’:

    I’m very much afraid I didn’t mean anything but nonsense. Still, you know, words mean more than we mean to express when we use them, so a whole book ought to mean a great deal more than the writer means. So whatever good meanings are in the book, I’m glad to accept as the meaning of te book.”

    According to the Buddhists, the physical reality we experience is actually ‘maya’, illusion or dream, and reality is constructed by subtle levels of the mind.

    “The Universe dreams itslef”

    –Fred Alan Wolf

    in Wolf’s book “The Dreaming Universe”, he theorizes that dreaming is the basis for consciousness, and that it is through dreaming that we are able to manifest a sense of ourselves.

    Paramhansa Yogananda said the purpose of our dreams at night
    were to awaken us to the dreamlike nature of the universe, in the sense that the waking dream was very similar in structure to the night dreams.

    night dreams fade away
    all too quickly on waking
    into this day dream

    –Jenifer Ransom

  44. Jen

    Hi Cloud/Claudia, I missed your post of the 21st, just checked out
    that essay. I disagree with the author’s view that Lewis Carroll’s
    spiritual/religious beliefs only show up in Sylvie and Bruno (which I find unreadable). I’d say the Alice books are much more of a “wisdom teaching” than S & B, although one does need to remain alert and look past the surface of the stories to pick up those things.

    It’s late and I’m tired, will expand on this tomorrow…

  45. Jen

    OK…how does “the inerrant word of God” (Cloud’s phrase) show up
    in Alice in Wonderland?

    First, who and what is “God”? I doubt anyone here thinks of God as a guy in the sky with a long flowing beard, expecting us to conform to His standards.

    Let’s remember Carroll was a mathematician, a logician, and a deacon. So he brings all of that (albeit unconsciously) to his chronicling of Alice’s dream adventures. Leibniz said that God must be a mathematician. Why? I suspect it’s because pure mathematics
    is “not of this world.” In The Annotated Alice, Martin Gardne notes that the “grin without a cat” is not a bad description of pure mathematicss, and quotes Bertrand Russell,:who described it as “remote from human passions, remote even from the pitiful facts of Nature…an ordered cosmos, where pure thought can dwell as in its natural home…”

    to be continued…

  46. Cloud

    Jen,

    Youuuuu…juuuust…doooon’t…get it.

    Cloud

  47. Jen

    Hey Cloud,

    Not to nitpick, but we’re not discussing Carroll’s book Sylvie and Bruno here, but Alice in Wonderland. Care to share your take on how that book relates to your Christian beliefs? Perhaps you can enlighten this poor confused soul…

    Jen

  48. Cloud

    Hi, Jen,

    I hope you had a nice holiday weekend!

    I have no take on how Alice in Wonderland relates to my Christian beliefs. I have no idea if it does, or does not. I don’t know the former well at all.

    By the way, the whole tangent that we got off onto began with my reply to your May 17th post; i.e., responding to your question.

    Simply put, what makes “sense” to me, or my “take” on ANYTHING is contingent upon how it stands within the confines of God’s Word.

    I am not asking you to agree with that. I am simply explaining that that is where I am coming from.

    So, I may not be someone that you would care to discuss that book with; or possibly any other book, for that matter.

    I say that because you have impressed me as someone who not only does not come from the same value/belief system as I, but that you may not be tolerant of it.

    When I think of Alice and her adventures…it is just from a light-hearted, fun, and playfully entertaining sort of way. Clearly, your thinking goes into much more depth and analysis. If that is where you are at in reading about Alice…rock on!

    I do enough deep and analytical thought in my academic, and hence, professional life.

    Sometimes I like to read just to let my mind relax. Even “The Book Thief” proved to be too heavy for my taste. I am now reading Anne of Avonlea…by L. M. Montgomery.

    Cloud

  49. Jen

    I did have a nice holiday weekend, hope you did also, I stayed with friends
    in a rustic cabin at a local environmental campground called Steep Ravine, part of Mount Tamalpais:
    http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_1649557.php

    Cloud, it’s not that I’m not tolerant of your Christian beliefs, although it’s safe to say my views differ from yours. I just prefer to keep the discussion focused on the book, since that is the reason we are here.
    I think it’s perfectly fine that you have a less analytical approach to
    the book than I do, although if, as you say, you filter everything through your Christian beliefs, that too is a form of analysis.

    In my experience, it’s very difficult to find people who are interested in discussing the Alice books in any depth. Even at the Yahoo discussion group on Lewis Carroll, they mostly talk about
    biographical stuff rather than delving into the books.

    I read the Anne of Avonlea books as a girl, loved them, will probably
    dip into them again at some point,

  50. Jen

    Well, it looks like it’s the last day, and I just
    posted an essay at my blog, “With What Purpoise?”, that contains
    quite a bit of Alice stuff: You can decide for yourself if this
    ends the discussion with a bang or a whimper:

    http://writtens-jen.blogspot.com/

    Byebye, and remember, we’re all mad here, not just me…

    Jen

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