It is one of the joys of my life that both of my daughters love to read. At ages 10 and 7, they have progressed from board books to picture books to chapter books; from “Goodnight Moon” to “Green Eggs and Ham” to “Harry Potter”. I was a voracious reader as a child. My mom taught me to read before I went to school and I never looked back. Many an hour was spent curled up in a chair, absorbed in whatever reality I was discovering – fantasy, history, espionage, romance, I was a genre-less addict.
Among my favorite books were “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass”. As a child, I read them for the sheer pleasure of reading, memorizing the poems and lines that appealed to me (‘Twas brillig and the slivy toves…”) As an adult, I have found words of staggering wisdom in quotations from the weird and wonderful characters that populate the books. Lewis Carroll wrote “Alice” for Alice Liddell and her sisters as a fun story, reflecting the way that a child might look at the odd behavior and rules of the adult world. The sequel “Through the Looking Glass” was written much later for the grown up Alice and has a much more complex tone. Alice is more aware of herself and her surroundings, and the story unravels as a chess game with the ultimate checkmate being the existential riddle of who dreamed of who.
I thought that I would share some of my favorite quotations and hope that if you have never read them, you give the books a try. You won’t be disappointed.“If everyone minded their own business,” said the Duchess, “The world would go around a lot faster than it does.” (Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland: Ch 9) And it would be a lot less aggravating.
“Would you please tell me which way I should go?” said Alice. “That depends on where you want to get to,” said the Cheshire Cat. “I don’t much care – ” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Ch 6) The irrefutable logic in this exchange can be interpreted in many different ways; if you don’t know what you want, then it doesn’t matter what you get.
“I give myself very good advice,” said Alice, “But I seldom take it.” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Ch 1) Alas, many of us do not practice what we preach.
“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” asked Alice. “Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle, “Nine hours the next, and so on.” “What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice. “That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” remarked the Gryphon, “Because they lessen as the days go on.” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Ch 9) If only…
“I see nobody on the road,” said Alice. “I only wish I had such remarkable eyes,” the King remarked in a fretful tone, “To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too! Why, it’s as much as I can do to see real people, and in this light!” (Through the Looking Glass: Ch 7) Don’t you just love a good pun?
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a scornful tone, “It means just what I choose it to mean – neither more or less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “Whether you can make words mean so many things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “Who is to be the master – that is all.” (Through the Looking Glass, Ch 6) I believe we have politicians that live by this rule.
“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it aint. That’s Logic.” (Through the Looking Glass: Ch 4) Well, you can’t argue with that.