Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Through the Looking-Glass

My last post by C. Lee McKenzie mentioned her love for Lewis Carroll's Alice books. I was always drawn to Through the Looking-Glass, because mirror images always seemed to present such a tantalizing alternate world. We could see it; it seemed that we should have some way of getting in there! As I got older, I began to appreciate the absurdity of Carroll's characters more and more: their dry wit, their quirkiness, the unpredictable way they twisted words. By the time I was in college, I found sentences like these priceless:

--"You know," he added very gravely, "it's one of the most serious things that can possibly happen to one in a battle--to get one's head cut off."

--"I mean," she said, "that one ca'n't help growing older."
"One ca'n't, perhaps," said Humpty Dumpty; but two can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven."

--"I hope you've got your hair well fastened on?" he continued, as they set off.

Everything was unexpected; nothing was as it seemed. Carroll took familiar songs and poems, familiar characters from nursery rhymes, and familiar objects (like chesspieces and flowers) and mixed them up together, made them spout wacky dialogue and embroil Alice in unfamiliar problems (how do you turn pots and pans into armor? how do you dish out a cake before it's cut?). As much as I'm a fan of realism in literature--and was, even as a child--I kept a soft spot for this book, which probably helped hone my sense of humor. It's also a good reminder to let characters surprise one another, and to have fun with language.

source of recommended read: received as family gift


  1. I love silly stuff like that in writing. I probably prefer it to realism, actually. I love Neil Gaiman, who is so unpredictable in his writing.

    1. Come to think of it, there's a similar tone to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Catch-22; which are very different books.