Confession: I’ve never read Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland cover to cover…until now. I tried once as a youngster, and before getting terribly far, decided Carroll was full of nonsense. Alice seemed to drift from scene to scene, from character to character. And why was there no plot? No plot, no point. The whole thing was, ahem, mad as a hatter.
Perhaps I could have avoided Alice for the rest of my natural life, but as a self-professed lover of children’s books, this omission on my reading list made me feel ever so slightly like a fraud. Plus, there are a lot of Alice fans in the kidlitosphere. So over the weekend, I decided to patch this gap in my education.
Going in, I expected Alice to be irritatingly trippy, full of mushrooms with magical properties and hookah-puffing caterpillars. (This was my sole memory of the animated Disney film that baffled me as a child.) Alice surprised me by coming across like a comedy sketch you’d watch on the BBC, deadpan yet absurd. I found myself reading in the pauses before the punchlines.
You promised to tell me your history, you know,” said Alice, “and why it is you hate–C and D,” she added in a whisper, half afraid that it would be offended again.
“Mine is a long and a sad tale!” said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.
“It is a long tail, certainly,” said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse’s tail; “but why do you call it sad?”
Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
If the people behind Monty Python didn’t read Alice growing up, then that’s curiouser and curiouser. Next question, is Through the Looking Glass just as funny?