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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland

This is my second attempt at writing this installment- the first time, my wonderful children were both climbing on me and my youngest pushed some magical sequence of buttons that caused my entire post to vanish, and I was unable to retrieve it. I could have gotten mad, but instead I took it as a sign that it wasn't one of my better posts and I should try again. So here I am, a few days later, trying to do this wonderful story the justice it deserves. I know I will fail, too. I've accepted that. Not because of my mediocre blogging skills, but because this is one of my most favorite stories of all time. This and its sister story, Through The Looking Glass. But that one will get its own post. Oftentimes, the two are combined when a film is made, and unless you take the time to read them both, it's easy to get things mixed up. Both are wonderfully weird and fantastic.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carrol) was a literary pioneer and genius. He boldly went forward into the realm of literary nonsense, and forever carved his own place in pop culture by opening up the world he found there and giving us all access to it. I love nonsense. I love it the way I love fine chocolate and the smell of my best friend's childhood home, and the smell of books; the way Hippies love patchouli oil. I love the way it feels to stretch my brain and my imagination in new ways, and the kind of pure, innocent humor that comes with the sublimely weird. I love it because it's funny without being harmful or critical, and because it makes my over-analytical brain take a break for a change. It lets me escape from my daily life for a bit, and come back renewed and full of new perspective.

Many of you are surely familiar with the basic storyline- Alice is getting a history lesson outside on a lovely day. She is bored, and easily distracted. Suddenly, she sees a rabbit run by, clothed, holding a pocketwatch. She chases it, follows it to a rabbit hole, and falls down. The fall is impossibly long, and it seems nearly an eternity before she lands. When she does land, she finds herself in a strange room with a little door with a beautiful garden on the other side and a bottle of strange liquid labelled 'Drink Me' on a table. After deciding that drinking mystery fluid from random bottles seemed like a good idea (as a child, this fascinated me, as a parent I find it horrifying!) she shrinks down to a little size, small enough to fit through the door. Except the door is locked. And the key is on the table that is now huge to her. She gets frustrated, but notices a cake that has 'Eat Me' written on it. Naturally, she decides that eating random baked goods of mysterious origin is a good idea, so she eats it and becomes ginormous. So large, in fact, that her head hits the ceiling and she sees no hope of becoming small enough to go through the door. So she cries. And cries. And, being giant, floods the place. She grabs a fan which makes her shrink again, very small. She, along with many other creatures, get swept away in the flood of tears. And things get weirder from there.

In this book, Alice encounters many unusual characters, including my favorite literary character of all time, the Cheshire Cat. She also meets the Mad Hatter, March Hare, Duchess, Mock Turtle, Caterpillar, and the Red Queen and Red King.

General weirdness ensues and by the end of the story Alice is quite fed up with it all. The Red Queen shouts "off with her head!" But Alice, unafraid, calls out the queen's minions as being nothing more than a pack of cards as they swarm her. Alice then wakes up to find that it is leaves falling on her, not cards swarming her, and her sister is trying to wake her up so they can go home.

This is a fun read for when life gets too serious. It lets you escape to a place so weird, that your own problems no longer matter- and when it becomes time to face them again you can do it with gusto, and take heart knowing that there's a way through it somehow because everything is exactly as it is meant to be. After all, if it was meant to be different, it would be, right?

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