My introduction to the genius of Martin Gardner came in the pages of his wonderful, witty "Annotated Alice," the Norton (2000) Definitive Edition. Gardner's notes led me to a deeper understanding of Lewis Carroll's masterpieces--far deeper than I could have achieved on my own. My copy of "The Annotated Alice" bristles with sticky notes and index tabs, each marking a particularly useful bit such as Gardner's discussion of treacle wells: "Wells believed to contain water of medicinal value were sometimes called 'treacle wells,'" he explained. (In the WATERSPELL Book 1: The Warlock fantasy, such founts are called "wysards' wells." Merely a matter of semantics.)
I next encountered Mr. Gardner in THE WEEK magazine of June 4, 2010, which ran his obituary. The obit said that Martin Gardner grew up in Tulsa and "taught himself to read as a 4-year-old by looking at the words on the page as his mother read to him from L. Frank Baum's Oz books." Gardner went on to write more than 70 books of his own, on subjects ranging from mathematics to "Lewis Carroll's coded subtext in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." If not for that obituary, I would not have known that Gardner wrote a regular column on mathematical games that ran in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN from 1956 to 1981.
My curiosity having been aroused, I was glad to discover "A Bouquet for the Gardener: Martin Gardner Remembered," a book of essays published by the Lewis Carroll Society of North America (LCSNA). These personal reminiscences and anecdotes paint a picture of a man of encyclopedic learning. Gardner contributed substantively in such fields as math, science, philosophy, magic, and literature.
In reading these essays, I related most sympathetically to his experiences as an author. He called the founder of Crown Publishers "a scoundrel." To justify reprinting a collection of previously published essays, Gardner commented: "I can only say that few things give a writer more satisfaction than a chance to reprint fugitive earlier scribblings, if for no other reason than to correct those inevitable copy changes made by editors and absent-minded printers." I have been there and done that: it is indeed a pleasure to correct an editor's goof-ups.
To rebut his critics, Gardner wrote a scathing review of his own book "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener" -- "the idea being that," explained his friend Douglas Hofstadter, "on its surface, the review would angrily slash the book's ideas left and right, but if read on a deeper level it would reveal all the weaknesses of opposing views, and thus in the end, the review's harshness would serve the book well." Brilliant! I wish I were that brave.
Any reader who owns Gardner's The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition needs to also acquire "A Bouquet for the Gardener: Martin Gardner Remembered," not only for its essays about Martin Gardner but also for "The Final Annotations." A section of the LCSNA book contains the last annotations Gardner made to the Alice books post-"Definitive Edition." Here's a great example: "In the illustration on page 214, Tenniel pictures the toves with noses that are long helices, like corkscrews. In keeping with the book's ["Through the Looking-Glass"] mirror symmetry motif, helices come in two forms, each a mirror reflection of the other." How cool is THAT?