Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

byLewis Carroll, JON EVANSContribution byGeorge A. Walker

April 1, 2011|
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
$18.95
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About the Illustrations

There are books so intimately associated with their illustrator that they can hardly be thought of independently. The Alice books are of this kind. John Tenniel''s magnificently detailed, utterly realistic depictions of Alice''s dream world are as much part of Alice as the immortal characters that live there, so much that in the long line of artists that have succeeded him (and preceded him, if we count Carroll''s own watercolours in the manuscript of Alice''s Adventures Underground) not one has displaced or come near him. Alice is Tenniel''s Alice, the Mad Hatter is Tenniel''s Mad Hatter and it would be impossible to imagine, even before breakfast, a Duchess that did not resemble Tenniel''s Duchess.

And yet ...

Alice''s books are tales told in dreams, and in dreams no reality stands for ever fast. Fluid and changing, dreams become something else both in their own time and in their telling, and every time we go back to them, their landscape has been replaced by another, but not quite different landscape. Fall we must, but the course of the fall will slightly alter every time we come to what we believe is the same rabbit hole in the same daisy-dotted meadow.

George Walker has assumed the right of every reader of Alice to translate the story (and the illustrations) into an illustrated story of his own. Tenniel saw Carroll''s text as a series of tableaux or set episodes, moments in the narration that could stand on their own, like scenes in a diorama. Walker instead has followed a more lively course in which the speed of the action allows no time for standing still and posing (much like the time of Through the Looking-Glass, where one must run very fast to remain in one place.) Glimpses, snapshots, details of larger scenes tell of Walker''s reading, a reading that follows Alice''s frantic pace, far from Victorian sobriety, from madness to greater madness.

In Walker''s version, the tableaux that the adventures traditionally elicit are exploded into dozens of fragments, like those that seem to scurry through medieval manuscripts and early printed books. Here is the rhythmic lobster quadrille, among a splendid aquatic fauna that includes a busy whiting and its shoe. Here are the cards and their monarchs dressed down as earthy variations of their more noble models. Here is the bestiary that Carroll imagined, animal and human, but with a solid, children''s primer-like reality, closer to the picture-books of Carroll''s time than to the political caricatures of Punch in which Tenniel excelled. And Alice herself (as we had forgotten) is not, as Tenniel imagined, a never-varying heroine, but many, a multitude of Alices changing through magic potions and through crises of identity: sometimes schematic and ghostly, sometimes full-bodied and powerful, sometimes with the borrowed traits of one of Wonderland''s strange creatures.

Woodcuts are, of all the illustrating techniques, the one that perhaps shows most confidence in its own language and matter. It acknowledges the mark of the chisel and the veins of the wood, it accepts and assumes its material self, it does not pretend to suffuse its own nature with that of the subject it is depicting, it allows itself to remain true to its own character, while performing its illustrative role for the sake of the story. Woodcuts never deceive the viewer. It is therefore absolutely fitting that Walker should have chosen this technique for illustrating Alice, because Alice too, in spite of everything, remains true to her dreamlike self, to her reality as dreamer, and even in her most alienating moments never forgets that her essence is flesh and bone, not fantasy, and that beyond the page (and the illustration) lies a human being who will wake up when the last word (and trait) of her story are done.

- Alberto Manguel
Lewis Carroll was born on the 27th of January, 1832, as Charles Lutwidge Dogson at Daresbury in Cheshire, England. Carroll is best known for his children''s books Alice''s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, which quickly became international successes and to this day inspire films, art, and research. Other famous w...
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Title:Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Format:Paperback
Product dimensions:144 pages, 8.73 X 5.56 X 0.58 in
Shipping dimensions:144 pages, 8.73 X 5.56 X 0.58 in
Published:April 1, 2011
Publisher:Porcupine's Quill
Language:English
Appropriate for ages:All ages
ISBN - 13:9780889843394

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