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The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition Paperback – January 1, 1999
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- ASIN : 0965012719
- Publisher : W W Norton Co Inc; Annotated. edition (January 1, 1999)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 312 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0965012714
- ISBN-13 : 978-0965012713
- Item Weight : 1.55 pounds
- Customer Reviews:
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One of the things I most appreciate in this edition is the generosity of both its annotators, the late Martin Gardner and his successor, Mr. Mark Burstein. Their willingness to read, acknowledge and often accept suggestions of interpretation and emendations from readers, who are not necessarily Carrollian experts, is absolutely unparalleled in the academic world, and only helped to enrich the resulting work.
I was also touched by, and agreed with Mr. Burstein's apologia for the section of "The Wasp In a Wig", originally omitted by Lewis Carroll himself for the final printed book. It sheds a different light on Alice's personality. Throughout both books Alice is presented as a rather snobbish and self-centered person, but in "The Wasp In a Wig" she is shown to be compassionate and ready to help, even though the object of her compassion, the Wasp, is a socially inferior and quite unfriendly creature. It is indeed a pity that Lewis Carroll agreed to omit it under Tenniel's pressure.
Still, there is one shortcoming that I would wish were not in this edition. It is the choice of illustrations. Instead of the multitude of modern-day far-fetched illustrations, I would like to have seen the original colored renditions of Tenniel's drawings for the "Nursery Alice" (in which Alice wears a yellow dress), as well as Harry G. Theaker's renderings of the Tenniel drawings for the 1911 Macmillan edition of the complete Alice (in which Alice wears the now iconic blue dress).
For some reason I put off reading the Alice books for many years. I do not know how, but I got it into my head that I would not really like them. I knew they were not traditional novels in the sense of having a "plot" or dramatic tension. I thought they might be kind of boring. I also thought that I had a basic idea of the story already from the animated Disney movie. I was essentially wrong on all counts. I was literally only a few pages into the first book when I realized that these are definitely works of genius. Not only are they highly entertaining (despite not having any traditional plot), but they are also extremely funny (which is extremely rare, even among 'humor' books). If that is all the books were they would definitely be worth reading, but there is much more to the Alice books.
Anyone who has read the Alice books knows that there is a hidden depth to them, and that one can explore the books endlessly following different paths (logic, linguistics, psychology, literary criticism, Victorian culture, etc.) and never even come close to exhausting what these books have to offer. There is an essay in Lewis Carroll: A Celebration called "Toward a Definition of Alice's Genre" that was written by Nina Demurova. At the very end of the essay she quotes Louis Untermeyer, who apparently claimed in his introductions to the Alice books that they were "the most inexhaustible tale in the world" (86). Normally I do not like statements like that in literary criticism. I think literary criticism should be concerned with analyzing and clarifying the meaning of works, not with "ranking" works, which I think is mostly a useless exercise. In this case, however, I think the statement may actually be correct. I read the annotated version of Alice, I read all of Martin Gardner's annotations as I was reading, I read a number of essays on the books after finishing them, and I read a book called Language and Lewis Carroll by Robert Sutherland, and I genuinely feel like I have not even scratched the surface of these amazing novels. These books will provide the reader not only with entertainment, but enough food for thought, and material for research, to last a lifetime. I am sure I will be reading, and re-reading these works over and over for the rest of my life. I recommend that anyone who is thinking about reading these books get as early a start as possible, and not put it off like I did.
I wanted to say just a few words about the annotations. For the most part I thought the annotations were excellent. The annotations in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland seemed to me to lean towards the biographical. I was ultimately less interested in the biographical details behind the creation of the Alice books (relating to both Dodgson himself, as well as Alice Liddell). I was more interested in some of the philosophical, logical, and linguistic aspects of the book, so I was slightly disappointed there was not more of a focus on those aspects of the work in the annotations to Alice in Wonderland. They were not entirely absent, for sure, and I felt the notes became more interesting in Through the Looking Glass. Despite my slight disappointment, however, I would definitely recommend that anyone thinking of reading this pick up the annotated versions. There is a lot in the books I would have missed without the annotations, and, of course, if you are someone who is interested in the biographical details behind the creation of the works, there is a fair amount of information in the notes.
I would also recommend taking a look at the collection of essays on Lewis Carroll I referenced above, as well as the essays in the Norton Critical Edition of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. There are some very good essays in both collections that should be a good start for anyone wanting to go a bit deeper into these "inexhaustible tales". The book on language and Lewis Carroll by Robert Sutherland that I referenced above is also very good, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the linguistic insights contained within Carroll's Alice books, as well as some of his other works. And finally, the truly ambitious reader might be interested in taking a look at The Logic of Sense by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze. The book is a VERY technical work of philosophy, not for the faint of heart, and it is not directly about the Alice books, but Lewis Carroll is definitely one of the main "characters" in the book (to the degree that philosophy books have characters) and Gilles Deleuze offers some interesting interpretations of some passages from the Alice books.
By Kathrine on October 24, 2019
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I bought this to replace my Penguin copy of the 1970 revised version of the 1960 original, so I haven't seen the expanded versions which appeared between 1970 and 2015. It's going to take several months to read the whole book; so far I've just flipped through and dipped into a few entries, which are a lot more detailed than in the 1970 edition.
The book is beautiful - the extra colour illustrations make all the difference. If you're a Carroll fan and don't already have one of the expanded versions it's an essential addition to your library. I can't give a link here, but an online search for this edition and "review" will bring up a detailed review published in The New Yorker. You can get a good idea of what it looks like from the page photographs Amazon have included.
At least one of the pages in my copy has a mark from the printing process, but it's of minor importance and I'm not going to change it in case the next copy is worse. Also, check out the measurements of this book before buying - it's more or less square and fits very oddly onto a bookshelf!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 28, 2020