Before Tim Burton: Brief History of Alice in Wonderland Book Reviews

By Jason Boog Comment

annotated23.jpgAs director Tim Burton brings Alice in Wonderland to the big screen this weekend, GalleyCat Reviews collected some classic criticism of the novel from some great writers.

In 1964 cultural critic Marshall McLuhan raved about the book: “Pervading this uniform Euclidean world of familiar space-and-time, Carroll drove a fantasia of discontinuous space-and-time that anticipated Kafka, Joyce, and Eliot. Carroll, the mathematical contemporary of Clerk Maxwell, was quite avant-garde enough to know about the non-Euclidean geometries coming into vogue in his time. He gave the confident Victorians a playful foretaste of Einsteinian time-and-space in Alice in Wonderland.”

The great Joyce Carol Oates praised the book in the mid 1990s: If you could transpose yourself into a girl of 8, in 1946, in a farming community in upstate New York north of Buffalo, imagine the excitement of opening so beautiful a book to read a story in which a girl of about your age is the heroine … It would not have occurred to me even to suspect that the ‘children’s tale’ was in brilliant ways coded to be read by adults and was in fact an English classic, a universally acclaimed intellectual tour de force and what might be described as a psychological/anthropological dissection of Victorian England.”

In 2000, Will Self criticized the epic scholarly version of the classic books, The Annotated Alice: “There is something malodorous about this book – like the stinking petals of a rotting bloom. Gardner first published an annotated version of Carroll’s Alice books in 1960, and since then he has – with a pedantic avidity that makes train-spotters appear lazily dilettante – continued to amass more and more material concerning them.”

Finally, last week the literary television show Lost featured a loving cameo appearance of The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition–W. W. Norton’s special edition of the Lewis Carroll classic.

Want to read more? Check out the February 2010 Print(out) Edition of GalleyCat Reviews.