Favorite Books

The DVD cover of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951).

The DVD cover of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951).

Greetings from the Professor! Over the next four months, this blog will become populated with posts by the students of EN 200 at Marymount University, as they share their thoughts and reflections on our class readings and assignments. You can read more about the class over on the About page. To start the semester, I’m asking the students to introduce themselves by writing about a favorite book. “What is your favorite book?” is always a tricky question. Often, the answer will depend on our mood, the time of day, the weather… any number of apparently unrelated factors. The best many of us can do is to pick one of our favorite books, or our favorite book at this time and place. That response might appear to be avoiding the question, but it also gets at the heart of one of the amazing things about literature. Every time we pick up a book, we have the potential to find a different experience. Favorite books are found and lost through the mysterious chemical reaction that happens between reader and text, and that changes every time we read.

A page from Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Lewis Carroll's first, hand-written and hand-illustrated, publication of the Alice story (image from Wikimedia Commons).

A page from Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, Lewis Carroll’s first, hand-written and hand-illustrated, publication of the Alice story (image from Wikimedia Commons).

The last time I responded to this “favorite book” prompt, I wrote about Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, but this time I’m going to choose a different book, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Alice is actually made up of two books: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there. I can’t pinpoint the moment I discovered the Alice books. It may have been through the 1951 Disney cartoon (I know my dad started singing me the “Unbirthday” song at an early age), or it may have been through an abridged storybook for children. I know I watched the 1985 TV miniseries and was thoroughly scared by the Jabberwocky at the end. It wasn’t until later that I read the books and discovered that none of the film versions really do them justice. The Alice books are full of seemingly-simple episodes that can lead you into a labyrinth of references, allusions, games, and uncertainty where any word, as Humpty Dumpty says “means just what I choose it to mean” and yet nothing is straightforward (161). Due to their combination of fantasy and philosophy, the Alice books have been fascinating both young people and adults since they were published. I chose to include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass in this class because they are stories that reward you more and more the farther you dig into them. They’re also incredibly fun, and their characters and stories continue to resonate with readers (and viewers, and gamers) today, over 100 years after they first appeared.

Work Cited: Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland. Ed. Donald J. Gray. New York: Norton, 2013. Print.

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