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“We’re All Mad Here”: On the Enduring Appeal of Alice in Wonderland

Much has been written about the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s classic tale of what happens when a bored, suggestible child imagines anthropomorphic mayhem down the rabbit hole. The tale recently celebrated its 150th birthday, thereby proving itself to be a venerable classic of juvenile literature. But what it is about the book that has preserved it from the notoriously fickle whims of the literarily inclined?

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I like to think that it is the book’s creative playfulness that has so captured audiences. Nonsense words, logical puzzles, and a cast of ridiculous and impossible characters permeate the book, and their charmingly Victorian sensibilities all lend an inimitable cleverness to the whole affair. Little Alice has her own grand adventure, without fear that roving, radar-bearing helicopter parents will spoil the fun. The adults that Alice encounters themselves display an amusing child-like pragmatism in their reasoning that would appeal to today’s precocious youngsters.

It helps, too, that the book is eminently quotable, allowing us to chide our friends to “begin at the beginning” or to encourage them to believe “as many as six impossible things before breakfast” or even just to muse that things are “curioser and curioser.” Add in a number of parodic nursery rhymes and you’ll quickly find that it’s hard not to like a book that’s as fun to say as it is to see.

But the seeing—that’s where the magic happens. Alice’s adventures are so easy and yet so fun to envision. They are exquisitely, fantastically, preposterously visual. The nonsensical characters practically beg for portraits. The outrageous happenings call out to enterprising artists to give them life. The book itself implores readers of any age to imagine and reimagine every time a page is turned.

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George Walker’s version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one instance of that call to creativity. The very first entirely Canadian publication of Carroll’s beloved classic, it features ninety-six wood engravings that offer a playful, surreal and provocative addition to Carroll’s original text. Like the Sir John Tenniel’s famous illustrations in the first printing of Alice, Walker’s engravings offer a new, subtly dark and energetic interpretation of the original masterpiece. The care and craft of each image is astounding, and acts as a charming and fitting accompaniment to the story.

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You can read more about this special PQL edition and purchase it here ».

As an added bonus, George A. Walker will be lecturing at the Lewis Carroll Society of North America’s Spring Meeting. Check back on the LCSNA website for more details.

 

portraitHope you enjoyed this blast from the past! Thanks for letting me ramble on about one of my all-time favourites.

All the best,sig


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.