Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist
poliphilo

Alice Revisited

Ask me to name a favourite book and I'll probably say Alice in Wonderland- but up until yesterday I hadn't read it in decades.

What an anxious book it is.  First we're anxious about our identity- am I Alice or Mabel? Then we're anxious about abandonment- all alone at the bottom of the well. Then we're anxious about the body- all that stretching and shrinking. Then we're anxious about causing offence- to the Mouse, to the Caterpillar.Then we're anxious about physical violence- as the plates fly at the Duchess's house. Then we're anxious about the sudden comings and goings of the Cheshire Cat,  who- in an disturbing combination- is both the friendliest of the Wonderland creatures and the eeriest. Finally we're anxious about authority- as we encounter the monstrous Queen of Hearts.  As a child I found it all a bit unsettling,  but not unbearably so, because I took my cue from Alice herself- from her remarkable courage and commonsense.   

What a wise book it is.

Was Lewis Carroll a paedophile? No, I don't think he was.  He loved children the way Wordsworth and Blake loved children- because he was a romantic, and admired their openness and freedom from cant- that quality we misleadingly call "innocence".  There's nothing creepy in his regard for Alice. He looks up to her; she's his hero; he hangs out with her because he knows she can teach him things.
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