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5.0 out of 5 stars Reading "Alice" with Martin Gardner, 4 July 2009
This review is from: The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition (Hardcover)
Having never read the original "Annotated Alice" nor its sequel "More Annotated Alice" I must be content to trust Gardner's declaration that this definitive edition combines the notes from those two predecessors and revises and adds to them. It was a sensible decision to opt for Tenniel's original illustrations for the self-styled definitive edition; Newell's could be used for "More Annotated Alice" since its prequel already used Tenniel's, but no edition of "Alice" is original, least of all definitive, without Tenniel.

Being an amalgamation of both "The Annotated Alice" and "More Annotated Alice" it also carries the introductions to both. Together they set out Gardner's intentions for those enterprises as well as provide a resume of the history of his lifetime's work on the project. Since Gardner's is the staple on the canon for the study of "Alice" I was surprised to find that it is not even remotely an academic edition. True, with the exception of the Chaucer-Shakespeare-Milton trio hardly any text has as profuse annotation as Gardner's "Alice". But the notes actually number quite few; there are only as much of them as there are because, as Gardner's introduction clearly states, they will ramble whenever the writer finds it interesting to do so. Its background information and factual context is probably for all useful intents and purposes exhaustive but interpretation-wise the `critical apparatus' is limited in scope, though - it must be stressed - not in exposition and amplification. Regardless, the notes are by no means rudimentary. Reading "The Annotated Alice" is like reading "Alice" with an enthusiast whose weir of knowledge around and about the texts accrued over a lifetime of passion intermittently opens. Every now and then are sprouted out pieces of anecdotes and in all pretty much all that can be known to fully appreciate the humour and wit of "Alice" which utilizes parodies as well as insider's knowledge of Carroll's closer readership; in Oxford and sometimes so personal as to be confined to the Liddell's family and Carroll's own family. If a particular passage commands Mr. Gardner's whim he will readily share his knowledge of how it has been variously read and interpreted.

"The Annotated Alice" is an immensely pleasurable read. It is intellectual, not aridly academic, whereupon it is sure to appeal to any civilized person. Even for the scholars among us, as far as I know this is the only modern edition to reproduce uncorrected the text of Carroll's final revision: vital since even what appears a quaint apostrophic convention was adopted precisely because it agreed with the master logician's logic. There are editions with better apparatus criticus, but none other to my knowledge with a text so pristine (I have noticed only a few, typographical, textual errors). Unfortunately I cannot say the same of the text of the annotation, which could do with another round of proofreading, most especially in the first chapter of "Looking-Glass"; whether one finds this irritating depends on one's own linguistic scrupulousness. Meanwhile Gardner's explication to his American readers of certain particulars of Carroll's text is by turns amusing, downright funny and annoying. But then this was not published by the OUP.
Gardner's very own chapbook "The Wasp in a Wig", containing that rediscovered excised episode from "Looking-Glass", is also included here in full complete with Gardner's preface and introduction and some revision. Strangely "The Annotated Alice" lacks the Christmas and Easter Greetings and the Epistolary Greeting to every child who loves Alice; I am not sure if Gardner just forgot them but these could be additions for the next edition. I suspect most readers of this book would already have them in some other editions of "Alice" notwithstanding, and I cannot see - though I am equally convinced of being surprised - what annotations could be written for them. Also of worthy notes are a selection of Tenniel's pencil sketches for his immortal illustrations and a checklist of "Alice"-related films appended miscellaneously at the end. Of the latter I am not so familiar with to comment; I suspect it is far from bibliographic, however.

One wishes "The Annotated Alice" had opted for footnotes rather marginal notes. Given the nature of the notes there are pages where the wide margin is completely wasting up free space that could have been used to accommodate larger reproductions of the meticulous illustrations and others where notes untidily sprawls and overruns by many pages. Other than this the design is very elegant, a quarto of black-and-white throughout between black boards with copper lettering. The dustcover of this edition has a truly stylish design in sepia to evoke a Victorian photograph - doubly appropriate as per Carroll's pursuit of photography.
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Initial post: 24 Aug 2011 21:02:58 BDT
Jabberwocky is another book you may enjoy. It is currently free for kindle and you can get kindle for PC for free if you don't have the device. I don't mean to bother you, just thought you may enjoy this. Plus the author has another book Hatter (which isn't free however)
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