Will Brooker is the handsomest former nerd in central London, and he takes his own edge off by cligning to the little bit inside him that still feels rejected, neglected, and put on the shelf by the cooler kids. His analysis of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass feels like something actually felt, not just abstracted, and it's clear that he keeps taking down from the hook all these various interpretations of Lewis Carroll's character, unable to settle on one, to see which one fits him the best. He is relentlessly modish and thoroughly up-to-date, and yet an old-fashioned drive for completion gives his character an uncharacteristic burnish, an OCD shadow. His book is terrifically written, on a sentence by sentence basis, but after awhile it does get wearisome, usually because like a handful of other practitioners of deconstructionist theory, Brooker is unable to give another full credit without sniping away at him or her. Every text that he picks up to examine will be revealed to have some huge flaw which Brooker doesn't share in.
He's divided his study into nine general areas, from representations of Lewis Carroll in recent biography, to the fandom with which his own recent work has been concerned. At least one of these topics, the section in which he critiques many illustrators of Lewis Carroll, should have been jettisoned for, despite what he thinks, Brooker lacks the ability to write well about the visual arts, odd for one who has written extensively on many comic artists, but alas, he's pretty bankrupt there. Another chapter devotes itself to contemporary sequels to ALICE, including Jeff Noon and Gilbert Adair, and here again a weakness in Brooker's comprehensive approach becomes obvious at once: although he has just about nothing to say about Adair's ALICE THROUGH THE NEEDLE'S EYE, he feels obliged to "cover" it with the same word count as he does everything else.
Against these minor flaws Brooker's book is an arsenal of critical insight and, as well, sheer writing chops. His opening salvo, tearing apart a series of biographers for their outright misstatements and lack of perspective, could hardly be better planned nor achieved. I would never have thought of the simple method he winds up using, which is, he isolates five areas of mystery in Carrollian biography, and one by one he examines what X, Y, or Z says about each. For example, what of the cut diary pages? What about the heartfelt diary entries which entreat his God to make him a more decent man? And what about those nude photographs of little boys and girls?
OK, maybe he tries to do too much, and depends on his own adorableness for pages at a time, but this is a thoroughly exciting book and I hope Brooker sees fit to keep it up to date in the years to come, maybe staging an Alice Biennale or something like.