Still Down The Rabbit Hole …

August 16, 2008 at 8:40 pm 5 comments

A.E. Jackson, illustr., 1914

I’ve come across a marvellous review by James Schellenberg of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass here. It offers an interpretation of the real power of this story: the character of Alice herself, and the rich visual nature of her encounters with the strange creatures and startling events in Wonderland.

This, indeed, is what most appeals to me, both as a kid and now as an adult. Even when illustrated sparsely, as some editions are, the descriptions are so marvellously evocative that you can’t but help–if you are at all creative or visual–to form vivid impressions of them in your mind. This may be why the movie versions of Alice sometimes pale in comparison to the book. It’s definitely why I’m so looking forward to Tim Burton’s take on it. There is no other director whose artistic sensibility is as well-matched to the story.

Among the tidbits I’ve picked up from Schellenberg’s site is that Salvador Dali himself illustrated an edition of Alice in 1969; as did Ralph Steadman, most famous as illustrator for Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Dali’s hookah-smoking caterpillar is extraordinary, pictured below at left. The frame on the right appears to reference the White Rabbit’s “I’m late, I’m late” refrain, with Dali’s iconic melting clocks. How perfect.

Salvador Dali, illustr. 1969

Steadman, on the other hand, seems to skip over the adventures in Wonderland to focus on Carroll and his relationship with the real Alice, Alice Liddell–one of the three sisters who accompanied the author and a friend on a rowing trip in which Carroll first spun the Alice tale. I haven’t yet found any other of the Steadman Alice illustrations, so it could be that the cover and one illustration shown below are misleading on this count. At least, I hope so.

The allegations of Carroll’s paedophilia have been hotly contested and seem to be based on flimsy, circumstantial evidence, possibly betraying a misunderstanding of the role of the child in Victorian times. Carroll’s photographs–which show young girls in various poses as themselves, and as fictional characters, are provocative in any number of ways. I am no expert on this topic, but Schellenberg and numerous other Carroll scholars have addressed it directly. The conclusions are inconclusive, to say the least.

Ralph Steadman, illustr. 1967

To me, trained in the New School-style of literary criticism, it’s authorial heresy to read too much of the author’s personal life into his work. The story stands on its own, and those that have turned their hand to illustrating it have invariably brought another layer of richness to it. This site has an excellent list of the artists who’ve illustrated Alice over the years, including links to their work. And this site–Bedtime Story Classics–presents the full text illustated with selected artwork from the many illustrators who’ve created representations in oil and ink of this feast for the senses.

And this song deserves to be playing in the background as you peruse them all:

Love Tommy Smothers introducing “Grace Sick … I mean … Grace Slick.” hehehe

Feed your head. Feed your head.


Entry filed under: Art, Books, Movies, Music. Tags: , , , , .

Ramble Through The Looking Glass Dorothy and Alice: Precocious Precursors to Potter

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. hooka  |  August 26, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    This is my first time visiting and i must say i like it very much.
    Your post was an educationa read.
    I will definetly come back here more often!


  • 2. zennifer516  |  August 26, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Hey, hooka! Glad you enjoyed it (and how appropriate your screen name!)

    Are you an Alice In Wonderland fan?

  • 3. The Hatter  |  December 15, 2008 at 3:59 am

    hello, and im glad i found this post!

    i completly agree,
    the review of A.I.W. / T.T.L.G by schellenberg was amazing!

    as a kid i watched the disney version of alice, and paid very little attention to it, and now many years later i have read most of its versions and really enjoy everything and anything to do with it.

    just showing love
    —The Hatter

    “why is a raven like a writing desk?”

  • 4. zennifer516  |  December 27, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Hi, Hatter! You are welcome to drop by anytime. Thanks for visiting!

    Yours in the Alice love,

  • 5. Hookapillar ;)  |  October 18, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    I loveeee Alice In Wonderland ! 😉 & I love all of the inspirations and adaptations; I am really looking forward for the acid/trippppppay take of it from TIM BURTON, my FAVORITE director. 😀 I fricken love hiiiimmm ! :)))

    Feeeeed your head, feed your head. 🙂

    I’M LATE, IM LATE; 😀


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