Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll
Paperback edition (2003)
Introductions by Will Self and Zadie Smith
ISBN 0 7475 6496 5
Picture yourself when you were truly innocent and your thoughts had the colours of the rainbow.
When a box was empty only 'cause you were looking in it, but who could tell what was inside once it was closed? A fairy, a michrotroll, or perhaps a little alien from a distant planet (anything distant is small enough to fit in a box).
Do you like yourself back then? Most of us do. That's why we like reading about Alice and her fantastic adventures.
How many times do you feel sad when you finish a book? You grow affectionate to its characters, and can't help missing them once the story has ended. And you know that even if you read it all over again, it will never be the same. You'll still like the book, but a voice at the back of your head will keep reminding you what's gonna happen next.
The beauty of Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There is that they can shut up that voice. There is nothing ordinary or predictable with the Wonderland folks, and nothing ever goes the way you expect them to go in the world behind the Looking Glass. At some point you certainly wonder: who's being a joke to who? OK, Alice makes fun of the Queen of Heart and all of her court, the flowers make fun of Alice and any other human-shaped creature, and the Cheshire Cat, with its big, everlasting grin, well, doesn't it seem to be making fun of you? Because it doesn't matter how experienced or smartass you are, nothing you ever learned can prepare you to the endless possibilities of a nonsensical world.
Which is simply great.
As people grow older they forget what it is like when you don't know what "behind the corner" is and why it is. Grown-ups learn by heart one or two reassuring rules according to which everything will happen in a certain way. An adult, responsible, logical mind is a straight line, perhaps an arrow, and it shuts itself against the whats and whys that aren't included in the adult, responsible, logical world.
But when you're a child nothing is necessarily straight, or necessarily left, or necessarily one way. A child's line of thought will form wriggles and curves, and be magical, and surprising, and free.
Lewis Carroll's writing is powerful enough to remind its reader of how fun wriggles are and why nobody should ever stop making them.