The Annotated Alice - Lewis Carroll

This is a copy of the Alice books, with annotations by Martin Gardner. Yes, that Martin Gardner. I guess this makes sense, since I expect Alice in Wonderland is nowadays read by more grown-up mathematicians than children.

The annotations are a bit of a mixture. Some are quite interesting, some are only of interest to completionists, and some are Martin Gardner's rambles on pet topics. Overall, I'm not sure they really add a lot in bulk, but for the most part they reveal there's certainly a lot more method than madness in Dodgson's nonsense, a certain amount of which is now much less obvious due to cultural drift.

Reading the Alice books is a bit like reading Shakespeare - not in terms of overall quality terms, but in terms of reading through and discovering how many ideas and words come from here - if not invented here, at least popularised by the books.

I hadn't read the stories in ages, but they really are very dream-like - objects and logic twist and change under observation, and the parts of the story are disjoint without much worry. I found the chess metaphor of Through the Looking-Glass a little bit heavy-handed, though.

The book has a few other bits and pieces, with the original Tenniel illustrations and some background on Dodgson. The illustrations are brilliant. They're iconic, and rightfully so. The background on Dodgson is... troubling, but there doesn't seem to be evidence he acted harmfully. A tricky legacy for some tricky books.

Posted 2015-08-21.