NOVEL: The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition
AUTHOR: Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1999
Everyone knows Alice. You’ve heard the Jefferson Airplane sing about her, and seen the Walt Disney movie (or perhaps the version by Tim Burton), or maybe you remember those Tom Petty music videos from the 1980s.
Like I said, everyone knows Alice. But how well? The original nonsense novels (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from 1865 and its 1871 sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There) are absolutely charming on their own. But for the true Alice aficionado, I recommend the Annotated Alice, in which Martin Gardner thoroughly explains Lewis Carroll’s ingenious mathematical puzzles and wordplay (Carroll was a mathematician and logician, as well as an author and photographer). He also elucidates many references which were plain as day to the Victorians but assume knowledge that most modern readers don’t have. Many of the poems, for example, are clever parodies of once popular works, and to better appreciate their humor, it helps to know what they are mocking.
Martin Gardner, besides being a Lewis Carroll expert, was a brilliant popular mathematics and science writer. My first encounter with him was as a teenager, with a paperback copy of The Relativity Explosion, still the most accessible description of Einstein’s ideas that I’ve ever read. It’s a bit out of date now (although there was a 1997 reboot entitled Relativity Simply Explained, which is still in print) but I have a great fondness for it, because it is one of those lovely science books which explains concepts in physics without the higher mathematics, making it an easy read, and an extremely good introduction to the topic for the general reader. But I digress.
In any event, the meeting of two brilliant minds from two different centuries has produced a most excellent and beautiful volume, with the original classic illustrations, and some bonus ones, too. Do get a copy for your favorite child. Or your favorite adult. Spring for the hardcover.
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): Five Whistles
HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon
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Art Courtesy of MorphArt/Shutterstock.com
Laura LaVelle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org