Monday, September 10, 2012

Sandy in Wonderland

The White Rabbit from "Alice"
When I'm doing the laundry I often think of "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass", but I'm not as crazy as that statement might lead you to think.

The reason the books come to mind is that behind the laundry room sink hang four ceramic tiles taken from the famous drawings by Sir John Tenniel that illustrated the books. I bought the tiles when I visited Oxford, home of the original Alice, whose father Henry Liddel was Dean of Christ Church, and of Charles Dodson, aka Lewis Carroll, who made her a superstar. When I got home from my trip, I found some wood blocks, stained them, painted the edges green and mounted the tiles. Wherever Roger and I have lived, the Alice tiles have always had a place.

The Caterpillar from "Alice"
Like many of you, I have wonderful childhood memories of both books, including being taught by my father to memorize, "The Jaberwocky" and "Father William" when I was very young. He loved the stories too, and this appeal to children of all ages is one of the reasons they endure.

And then there are the intriguing references to mathematics, history and politics, and the parodies of popular songs and poems. I had little idea of how complex the books really are until I bought "The Annotated Alice" and read the stories from an adult perspective, guided by an explanation of references that previously had sailed right over my head.With these new insights, I appreciated the stories even more.

In addition to a combined edition of "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass", my Alice library also includes, "Alice's Adventures Underground", a facsimile of the original manuscript with thirty-seven illustrations by Dodson, that later morphed into the Alice story the world loves. I also bought a little Pitikin guide, "Alice's Adventures at Oxford", that tells how the books came to be written, and how they affected the lives of the shy mathematics professor and the little girl who inspired the stories.
The Walrus and the Carpenter from "Looking Glass

Dodson is such a multi-talented man, clearly brilliant, but I've never known quite what to make of his interest in photographing little girls in costumes and artistic poses, sometimes in the nude (with their parents present). For the sake of the children involved, and because of my great affection for his works, I hope it was an innocent hobby...

Tweedledum and Tweedledee from "Looking Glass"

When I'm in the laundry room doing mundane chores, it makes me smile to look up from the sink and see these quirky, beloved old friends and think of glorious, historic Oxford and those happy times with my father who inspired my love of words with stories and poems.

The Little Alice Sink in the Laundry Room

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