Saturday, October 03, 2009

119 (2009 #44). Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll
read by Shelly Frasier

I’m embarrassed to say, after reading Alice I Have Been, about the girl who inspired the Alice in Wonderland books, that I’d never read this Lewis Carroll classic, only seen the Disney movie like so many of my generation. I found this unabridged audiobook at the local public library and thought I should listen. It’s literary nonsense and rather hard to believe it was originally meant for children, as I think some of the word play would go right over their heads. For example, I loved the Mock Turtle’s and Gryphon’s puns on traditional courses of study in the Victorian era:
Reeling and Writhing,...and then the different branches of Arithmetic –Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision....Mystery, ancient and modern, with Seaography;...the Drawling-master was an old conger-eel...he taught us Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting with Coils....the Classical master...was an old crab, he was....He taught Laughing and Grief,
which of course were reading, writing, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, history, geography, drawing, sketching, painting with oils, Latin and Greek. But would the average child get that?

Indeed, an anonymous review in The Athenaeum of December 16, 1865 (page 844) said,
This is a dream story, but who can in cold blood manufacture a dream, with all its loops and ties, and loose threads and entanglements and inconsistencies, and passages which lead to nothing, at the end of which Sleep’s diligent pilgrim never arrives? Mr. Carroll has labored hard to heap together strange adventures and heterogeneous combinations, and we acknowledge the hard labor....We fancy that any real child might be more puzzled than enchanted by this stiff, overwrought story.

Yet I remember loving the movie, and I think it was because Technicolor made the absurdities more “real.” In this case the story does suffer from being an audiobook without illustrations. Shelly Frasier does British accents rather well, but her voices for many of the characters sound too similar.

1 comment:

  1. I've tried to read the original Alice several times, just because it's one of those you should reads...but it HARD to get through. I read parts of its several times...the movie is MUCH better.