Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has been sitting on my book shelf since, well, since I can remember. To be honest, I don’t even know why I have it. I guess it is one of those college assignments that I never quite got to. (In college I ONLY read the British Romantics.) So, tired of seeing an unread book on the shelf, I picked it up earlier this week and decided to read it. Let me tell you, this story is weird. Crazy. We’ve all seen the Disney movie. We know about the Queen of Hearts and the caterpillar. We remember the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter (right?). Cheshire-Cat is the best. Like most cats, he’s arrogant. But he gets the best lines. Even thought the book is crazy, there are so many great moments. I’d also add that Alice is one of the coolest characters I’ve encountered in fiction. That’s surprised me a little bit. She’s strong without being overbearing. She’s inquisitive without being naive. Feminine without being wimpy. She’s the quintessential postmodern heroine.
I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit hole—and yet—and yet—it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!
But my favorite aspect of Alice: she’s fearless—except that she was initially afraid of the Queen’s soldiers before realizing that they were only cards from a playing deck. While in Disney World a few years back we ran into a great painting of Alice standing, unsure, in front of the cigarette-smoking caterpillar. In the worm’s puff’s of smoke was the question, “Who are you?” If it wasn’t for the $500 I would have bought it. But that’s not the point. The point is that the caterpillar’s question is THE question. And it was so profound to be asking a lost girl in a place called Wonderland. I think we would all do well to try a little harder every day to wake up in the middle of a fairy tale. There’s danger. Absolutely. And disorientation. But also life—enormous life. Alice in Wonderland is a great reminder not of what life ought to be, but what it is. Fraught with adventure, disorientation, surprises, strange and unexplainable circumstances, and villainy. There’s fear, but once a closer examination is made there’s the realization that it’s only a veneer. But sum effect of it all is more than a Wonderland of sorts—it’s a very real Wonderland.