The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition

For over half a century, Martin Gardner has established himself as one of the world's leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. His Annotated Alice, first published in 1959, has over half a million copies in print around the world and is beloved by both families and scholars—for it was Gardner who first decoded many of the mathematical riddles and wordplay that lay ingeniously...

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Title:The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition
Author:Lewis Carroll
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Edition Language:English

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition Reviews

  • J.G. Keely

    I think that the failure not only of Children's Literature as a whole, but of our very concept of children and the child's mind is that we think it a crime to challenge and confront that mind. Children are first protected from their culture--kept remote and safe--and then they are thrust incongruously into a world that they have been told is unsafe and unsavory; and we expected them not to blanch.

    It has been my policy that the best literature for children is not a trifling thing, not a simplific

    I think that the failure not only of Children's Literature as a whole, but of our very concept of children and the child's mind is that we think it a crime to challenge and confront that mind. Children are first protected from their culture--kept remote and safe--and then they are thrust incongruously into a world that they have been told is unsafe and unsavory; and we expected them not to blanch.

    It has been my policy that the best literature for children is not a trifling thing, not a simplification of the adult or a sillier take on the world. Good Children's literature is some of the most difficult literature to write because one must challenge, engage, please, and awe a mind without resorting to archetypes or life experience.

    Once a body grows old enough, we are all saddened by the thought of a breakup. We have a set of knowledge and memories. The pain returns to the surface. Children are not born with these understandings, so to make them understand pain, fear, and loss is no trivial thing. The education of children is the transformation of an erratic and hedonistic little beast into a creature with a rational method by which to judge the world.

    A child must be taught not to fear monsters but to fear instead electrical outlets, pink slips, poor people, and lack of social acceptance. The former is frightening in and of itself, the latter for complex, internal reasons. I think the real reason that culture often fears sexuality and violence in children is because they are such natural urges. We fear to trigger them because we cannot control the little beasts. We cannot watch them every minute.

    So, to write Children's Literature, an author must create something complex and challenging, something that the child can turn over in their mind without accidentally revealing some terrible aspect of the world that the child is not yet capable of dealing with. Carroll did this by basing his fantasies off of complex, impersonal structures: linguistics and mathematical theory. These things have all the ambiguity, uncertainty, and structure of the grown-up world without the messy, human parts.

    This is also why the Alice stories fulfill another requirement I have for Children's Lit: that it be just as intriguing and rewarding for adults. There is no need to limit the depth in books for children, because each reader will come away with whatever they are capable of finding. Fill an attic with treasures and the child who enters it may find any number of things--put a single coin in a room and you ensure that the child will find it, but nothing more.

    Of course, we must remember that nothing we can write will ever be more strange or disturbing to a child than the pure, unadulterated world that we will always have failed to prepare them for. However, perhaps we can fail a little less and give them Alice. Not all outlets are to be feared, despite what your parents taught you. In fact, some should be prodded with regularity, and if you dare, not a little joy.

  • Paul Bryant

    Then Alice saw a large wall in the middle distance. Someone was sitting on the top of it. When Alice had come within a few yards of it, she saw that the thing sitting on the wall had eyes and a nose and mouth and a large pile of golden hair; and when she had come very close, she saw clearly that it was TRUMPTY DUMPTY himself. "It must be him because that’s what is written on his baseball cap," she said to herself. He was already speaking to her.

    “They said I wouldn’t build the wall and I built t

    Then Alice saw a large wall in the middle distance. Someone was sitting on the top of it. When Alice had come within a few yards of it, she saw that the thing sitting on the wall had eyes and a nose and mouth and a large pile of golden hair; and when she had come very close, she saw clearly that it was TRUMPTY DUMPTY himself. "It must be him because that’s what is written on his baseball cap," she said to herself. He was already speaking to her.

    “They said I wouldn’t build the wall and I built the wall. They were wrong because they weren’t right. Really really really great wall.”

    “I’m sure it is,” said Alice. “What is it for?”

    “Believe me, this is the greatest wall there ever was,”

    “I’m sure it is,” said Alice, “but please, what is it for?”

    “The people, there were people, who said the wall would never be built, they were not smart people, as you see, the wall is right here, it is extremely extremely here, believe me.”

    “Yes, I do see that it is, but please,” said Alice, getting rather impatient, “what is it for?”

    “Those people, there were so many many of them, they said the wall was never ever ever going to be built, that’s what they said, you can check that, it’s there in the record. They were really really not smart those people. Everyone here can see that this is a great great day. That is what people are telling me. ”

    “But –" started Alice.

    “We are making Wonderland great again. Really really great. Dozens, hundreds of people, have said that there would be no wall. No wall at all. They said it would never never never happen. You can’t find those people any more because they are on the other side of the wall. Oh yes, there is another side of the wall. Really really other side. Can you hear them?”

    Trumpty put his hand to his ear, exaggeratedly listening. Alice listened hard too for a moment but could not hear a sound, except for Trumpty talking continually. She had by now given up trying to ask Trumpty Dumpty anything at all. It was as if he did not know what a conversation was.

    “It’s going to be amazing, really amazing. You will see Wonderland great again. So great.”

    *

    Sorry about that..... I really just wanted to flag up that this Definitive 150th Anniversary edition by Martin Gardner is exquisite and replaces all previous editions. So if you have a birthday coming up, you could ask for this! And if you get it you'll have a smile that will take a really really great long time to fade away. Believe me.

  • Bonnie

    Read both as a child, and again as an adult. Loved and appreciated it then; love and appreciate it now.

    A book everyone should read at least once, and one that I hope children are still reading today.

  • Lisa

    “Once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people.”

    If I ever had to choose to be another literary person than my beloved soulmate

    , it would have to be Alice in Wonderland. Why would I need to be another character than the one and only Don? Well, it is good to have a backup if you are asked to come to a masquerade as a favourite book charac

    “Once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people.”

    If I ever had to choose to be another literary person than my beloved soulmate

    , it would have to be Alice in Wonderland. Why would I need to be another character than the one and only Don? Well, it is good to have a backup if you are asked to come to a masquerade as a favourite book character (a not completely unlikely risk and side effect of my profession), and you realise that your blonde hair and the emphasis on blue dresses in your wardrobe makes that a much more natural choice than the Medieval male dresscode of La Mancha.

    On the other hand, Alice is a perfect complement to the Don in many ways. While he sets out to give the ordinary world some magic, she dives into Wonderland to make it sparkle with her common sense approach to madness. A perfect pair, those two characters.

    In times like these, they are needed more than ever, to fight the windmills or Jabberwockys of modern craziness. As coffee is a means of survival to me, and I like the idea of drinking it out of a mug featuring an illustration of a famous tea party - as nonsensical as most, but more fun - I once went to London and bought myself a Mad Hatter mug, the handle nicely formed like one of those keys Alice had such trouble with. The quote on the back of the mug has helped me (along with the caffeine and a sense of humour as dark as my no-milk-and-no-sugar coffee) survive many a lesson with teenagers:

    "If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, ‘you wouldn’t talk about wasting it."

    I know for a fact that this book can be reread as many times as needed to figure out your own identity and level of madness, without any waste of time whatsoever:

    “Who am I then? Tell me that first, and then, if I like being that person, I'll come up; if not, I'll stay down here till I'm someone else.”

    I can almost give the same promise that Milo got in

    :

    "RESULTS ARE NOT GUARANTEED, BUT IF NOT PERFECTLY SATISFIED, YOUR WASTED TIME WILL BE REFUNDED."

  • Alejandro

    This was technically a re-reading since I’ve already read both novels previously, the key difference here was that this is an “annotated” edition, which includes a comprehensive section, at the end of each chapter, with tons of notes revealing “be

    This was technically a re-reading since I’ve already read both novels previously, the key difference here was that this is an “annotated” edition, which includes a comprehensive section, at the end of each chapter, with tons of notes revealing “behind-the-scenes” detailing moments in the life of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), the “real” meaning of scenes, the “real” inspirations for several of the characters in both novels, historic meaning (in the Victorian England) of casual expressions that got outdated nowadays, studies in the metrics of the poems included in the novels, etc…

    It was a curiouser and curiouser reading experience since this was my first “annotated edition” of any book, and I believe that if you want to engage into this sort of books, it’s advisable having read the regular version of the novel first, since reading all those annotations after each chapter, it’s a kinda of “braking” effect, since depending the chapter, you’ll invest almost the same time reading the explanations than the chapter itself, so you lose a great deal of the rhythm of your reading, therefore, if you haven’t read the story before, you may not enjoying as much as it was supposed to be.

    Of course, almost all the information was made by scholars in the Lewis Carroll’s works, doing assumptions and best guesses, since the author was already gone when this annotated edition began to be conceived. Therefore, it’s a priceless access to get a better understanding of the novels at the era when they were published,

    …you can’t fully take without a doubt the exposed explanations, since you can’t ask the author anymore to validate if their interpretations are truly accurate. So, as many things in life, it’s up to you if you wish to believe them.

    And as those scholars mentioned at some momento of the annotations, that sometimes we are so obssessed to find a secret meaning behind any single quote, any single character, any single scene, etc… and while it’s evident that some quotes, characters and scenes have indeed a double significance, some of them are merely things needed to keep flowing the narrative, as simply as that, without any conspiration or secret plot,…

    …so don’t get too deep into the annotations section and simply enjoy this wonderfully mad tale about a little girl who fell down into a rabbit’s hole and she kept finding curiouser and curiouser things, even through the looking-glass.

  • emma

    i have never, in my entire life, cried in public over a book.

    until today.

    THIS BOOK MADE ME CRY IN PUBLIC!

    more of a review to come??

  • Joey Woolfardis

    150 years ago, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson welcomed a new Dean to Christ Church College, Oxford, along with his family, including the three daughters, Lorina, Edith and Alice. Charles had been writing prose and poetry since a very young age, but it was young Ali

    150 years ago, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson welcomed a new Dean to Christ Church College, Oxford, along with his family, including the three daughters, Lorina, Edith and Alice. Charles had been writing prose and poetry since a very young age, but it was young Alice Liddell who encouraged him to write down the stories he had made up for her and her sisters, thus Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published and has since been a stalwart in children's reading treasuries.

    Charles, or more famously known by his alias Lewis Carroll, was an extraordinary man, graduating from Oxford with a first in Mathematics and going on to study and teach at Oxford, where he remained until his death in 1898. Not only did he write, but he was an early pioneer of photography and also painted. He predominantly wrote short stories and poems, but Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was a longer version of his unique writing style, and was published in 1865 to great acclaim. He became famous almost over night and wrote the sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, though this particular story seemed much darker than the much-loved Wonderland, most probably caused by the depression he felt after the death of his father in 1871. Sylvie and Bruno, a tale of fairy siblings is a lesser known story from Carroll in 1895 and did not fair as well as Alice ever did though it remains in print as a testimony to the wonderful writer Lewis Carroll was.

    Lewis Carroll's writing is often described as surreal and nonsensical, a lot of his words are made up, but are used in today's language-think specifically of the poem Jabberwocky-and he has had almost as much impact on the way we use language as Shakespeare ever did. The word 'chortle' is used today as commonly as if it truly were a real word for laughing:

    `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

    All mimsy were the borogoves,

    And the mome raths outgrabe.

    "Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

    The frumious Bandersnatch!"

    [...]

    "And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?

    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'

    He chortled in his joy.

    In my most recent re-read of Alice, I decided I would read aloud the poetry within the book. There is a lot more poetry in it than I originally remembered, all of which is told to Alice by the various characters she meets. The made-up Carrollian words sound both strange and familiar on the tongue and one can find a genuine lilting rhythm to the entire book when experienced out loud with sound.

    Beneath the surface, the story can be seen as quite dark, particularly the latter story Through the Looking-Glass. Whilst both retain the whimsical, surreal nature of another world, Looking-Glass has more of a sinister overtone, with more things going wrong for Alice and many more characters being unkind to one another. It also showed another side to Alice herself, as she had grown out of the rabbit hole and crying her way out of situations and instead wished more than anything to be a Queen. Her previous adventure with the Queen must have sparked this desire, though Alice had shown nothing but disdain for the Queen of Wonderland who wanted to chop everyone's head off at any given moment.

    I found myself enjoying the latter book to the former: I cannot place my finger on the reason why, however. If nothing else, it is probably the more grown-up version of Alice I prefer, though in reality she is still just a child. Her experiences in her first Wonderland adventure seemed to have impacted her fervently, as she navigated the Looking-Glass Wonderland exceedingly well, often outsmarting those who were native to it.

    The two books-often just collated in to one large one known as Alice in Wonderland-are actually all I've ever read of Lewis Carroll's works, though I am intrigued by his other works, particularly his poetry. The surreal, nonsense nature of the poetry in Alice is unique to Carroll and I'd be curious to see if it carries over in to his other works. Have you ever read his other works?

    There is some controversy surrounded Lewis Carroll, mostly brought up in biographies of him, particularly regarding his friendliness with young girls such as the Liddell children, but I shan't be commenting on that here. Instead we shall concentrate on the great piece of literature he left behind, which he wrote whilst he was both disappointed and unhappy with his job of teaching at Oxford (despite remaining there until his death) and saddened by the loss of his mother early on in his life and by his father after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published. It is too much to wonder whether the reputation of such an absorbing, wonderful book would be tarnished if his biographers ever learnt the exact truth of his nature and the absurdities of accusations are most likely driven by the era they find themselves in.

    There are many events taking place in 2015 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of this wonderful, wondrous, wandering book all over the globe. Royal Mail are producing celebratory collection stamps in honour of the landmark and who can forget the wonderful (if rather libertarian) Disney film? The best thing you can do is to read and re-read this book an enjoy it for what it is: a beautifully written, surreal and nonsense book that has captivated the imaginations of children and adults alike.

    [On the night I re-read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the moon decided to show me his best Cheshire Cat smile in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the book.]

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  • Henry Avila

    Dreams , figments of the wondrous mind, what things can it create...A little girl named Alice, 7 with her big sister a few years older, sitting on the banks of the gentle river Thames, on a calm , warm sunny day, in 1862 how delightful , still she is bored watching her sibling read a book, not paying any attention to her, with no pictures, imagine that... getting sleepy...Out of nowhere a nervous White Rabbit dashes by Alice, no big deal even though it has clothes on, not thinking it peculiar wh

    Dreams , figments of the wondrous mind, what things can it create...A little girl named Alice, 7 with her big sister a few years older, sitting on the banks of the gentle river Thames, on a calm , warm sunny day, in 1862 how delightful , still she is bored watching her sibling read a book, not paying any attention to her, with no pictures, imagine that... getting sleepy...Out of nowhere a nervous White Rabbit dashes by Alice, no big deal even though it has clothes on, not thinking it peculiar when the animal speaks, looking at a watch, and declares he will be late to an important party. Intrigued the child follows the rapid rabbit down a large hole, a long tunnel , soon finding a precipice, then falling and falling, the never ending drop continues as the frightened girl starts to believe, maybe, quite possible , arrive finally on the other side of the world, welcome Australia. Nevertheless landing safely in a pile of leaves, unhurt Alice in a strange hall sees a bottle that says drink me. She the brave girl does, being much too big, for this land, needing to get out, to the beautiful place outside that Alice views, through the door, too small for her and shrinks... this will not be the last time either, her size will vary in future adventures in this magical tale. Meeting a plethora of mad characters, as one of them matter of fact boasts we're all mad here. The Cheshire Cat with his always grinning smile as he fades away and reappears ...the Queen of Hearts the annoyed ruler frequently shouts and proclaims, "Off with their heads", and her curiouser and curiouser croquet match...with real animals for equipment, the Mad Hatter and his perpetual tea party with the March Hare who enjoys puzzling Alice. The mellow Caterpillar likes sitting on top of a mushroom smoking leisurely and showing scorn for the little girl's silly questions, the Mock Turtle who head looks like a cow and is sad, the ugly Duchess sneezing because her maid's over use of pepper, other weird souls in this enchanting book appear. If you are a type of person who relishes the road less traveled, this will be up your alley. A classic children's fable that will always be a favorite, having sold more than 100 million copies, and adults can be entrapped also, and benefit by the amusing satire of their foibles, which everyone has.That is being human ...

  • Heather

    This is a weird one. The more I read the more I'm okay with the weirdness. Does that say something about me? I thought at first I wouldn't read it to my kids because it's too strange, but I'm thinking now I might. They just might like it. We'll see how it ends. Am I lame that I've never read this before?

    Okay, done with them both. Alice in Wonderland was okay. Still weird. Weird and I didn't understand it. Through the Looking Glass took weird to a whole new level. A bad level. The whole time I w

    This is a weird one. The more I read the more I'm okay with the weirdness. Does that say something about me? I thought at first I wouldn't read it to my kids because it's too strange, but I'm thinking now I might. They just might like it. We'll see how it ends. Am I lame that I've never read this before?

    Okay, done with them both. Alice in Wonderland was okay. Still weird. Weird and I didn't understand it. Through the Looking Glass took weird to a whole new level. A bad level. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking, "Is Carroll on crack? This makes no sense." And then I thought maybe I needed to be on crack to understand it. I've had crazy dreams sort of like this, all disjointed and random and all, but that doesn't mean I want to read a book about psycho dreams. And what's up with shaking the poor kitten all the time?

    I might read Wonderland to the kids. I won't read Through the Looking Glass.

    And does anyone really know what this all means? Because if it's "just for fun", it wasn't.

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