Fiction Page 16
THE DARKER SIDE OF WONDERLAND, ALICE, AND ITS CREATOR...COMING SOON
THE ILLUSION OF LEWIS CARROLL
Lawrence R. Dagtine
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), the man whom the world knows as Lewis Carroll, the perfect specimen of the priggish baccalaureate¾and the Oxford-deemed nutty professor¾whose clothes were a fine tailor-made Victorian brown mixed with red rococo, and who assumed the personification (rather a predilection) of a worthwhile companion to some rather very young girls. Carroll, one of the supreme experimenters of children's literature, and the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), and its sequel Through the Looking Glass (1872), was also famous for his skills in photography, mathematics, poetry, and logic puzzles. Many Carrollians, or fans of Lewis's work, have yet to look much beyond the author's two most famous provocations to see where Alice belongs within the larger context of his many-sided creativity.
Take the future for example. What if Alice had not been created in our day and age? What if the infamous Wonderland tale was written and took place in about two hundred years from now? What if Carroll was not only an author or mathematician, but a scientist and a great engineer as well, capable of amazing scientific feats?
I'm sure many would believe that Carroll would be just as contemptuous in the 23rd Century of the sentimental strain of children's literature and advanced technology just as any author or poet or mathematician or before him would find most inadequate. Hardly the fey nature of a good children's tale and a great children's author, but even Carroll's fictional characters have a better head on their shoulders. But Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is known to be a hilarious set of childish instances and poetic pieces but of its most powerful representations of the complex situations of growing up in society.
The air of parody and satire, both political and social, that run through Carroll's tales is confirmed by his choice of illustrator, Sir John Tenniel. Tenniel's Wonderland illustrations are often described as dark and macabre, surreal and bizarre. And though often five to ten year olds may find Wonderland humorous and invigorating, adults have come to recognize the tale as a work of outrageousness. Some have come to recognize the work as being full of profound oddities, a tale about a young girl trapped in a place she don't really want to be¾but, being forced by the author's own reticent curiosity, not Alice's, bringing about the makings of a nightmare.
Yes, a nightmare. And who said Alice in Wonderland (as it was later called, when shortened) had to be about growing up in a complex society? Back when the tale was first published the Industrial Revolution and the Civil War was considered complex …Scarlet Fever and the lifestyle of Victorian Englanders very complex. But what about a society where there is no real future (or at least a dreary one) and no memory of a decent past? A dark, dystopian future where life, as we know it, or used to know it, has become artificial and surreal?
This future would be the perfect place for someone like Carroll. He'd probably feel right at home, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland would be something to fuss about. A book about growing up in what society¾as darkly futuristic and technologically-advanced as it would be¾ should be like. A world of queer ideologies, and strong literary or philosophical beliefs. A world of free expression but filled with raving lunatics, not to mention the writers and artists and scientists and schizophrenics.
Well, welcome to 2273 A.D.
You're about to make the acquaintance of a very special man, and learn some things about a friend or two or maybe three, his characters, his rhymes, and an in-depth view of what stirs a nutty professor's mind.
¾ Lawrence R. Dagstine
Author's Note -
A NOVEL IN THE WORKS
Sometimes when I see a scrap of paper blow before the wind I am reminded of the way I created her¾almost soundlessly, a striking resemblance of innocence, only the first draft or page from the manuscript causing me to look around.
Her name was Alice.
Her character had a tenuous quality, as if in a