The book that has been a lifetime love of mine is Lewis Carroll’s sequel to the more widely known Alice in Wonderland. Carroll, also known as the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, wrote Alice in Wonderland as a both a children’s story AND as a scathing satire on new modern mathematics that were emerging in the mid-19th century—which Lutwig found absolutely ridiculous, hence his crafting a genre niche he liked to called literary nonsense. Alice in Wonderland had unprecedented exposure, much to Carroll’s surprise and commissioned a sequel. Carroll utilized the talented wood block artist John Tenniel to create the illustrations as he did with the first book. Whereas the first book has the deck of cards as a theme, Through the Looking-Glass is based on a game of chess, played on a giant chessboard with fields for squares. Most main characters in the story are represented by a chess piece or animals, with Alice herself being a pawn. Carroll made the world in this book as a mirror image of Wonderland: the first book begins outdoors, in the warm month of May, uses frequent changes in size as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of playing cards; the second opens indoors on a snowy, wintry night exactly six months later, on 4 November. It uses frequent changes in time and spatial directions as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of chess. Carroll enjoyed opposites, time running backwards, and so on.
While I enjoy Wonderland, I find Through the Looking Glass more entertaining, thought-provoking and intriguing. Carroll also included more of his poetry including Jabberwocky. My love for the book made a firm impression on me as a young girl listening to a book-on-cassette-tape adaptation. The other side had Wonderland but I was more strongly drawn to the exchanges in Looking Glass.
I currently own four adaptations of the book, including a lovely copy that had special permission to re-ink the original woodblocks. My favorite quote in the world comes from Chapter Five, an exchange with the White Queen and Alice which in a way, I have taken on as a life motto.
“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
My submission this week.
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