I turn 36 today. You know how there are particular books you’ve always wanted to read, but somehow never make the time for? Since I was a teenager, I’ve made it a birthday tradition to read a book that I’ve always wanted to get to but somehow never have. This is difficult since it needs to be short enough to be manageable and reliably well-regarded so as not to be disappointing. Of course, most years it takes me a number of days to get through the entire book. Sadly with work and adult life the days of being able to sit in all day doing nothing but reading are gone. When I turned 17 I think I spent the entire lonely day in my room reading Kobo Abe’s stark brutal novel “Woman in the Dunes.” It’s a fantastic book – though it left me feeling a little bleak.
However, upon waking up early this morning and on the way to work, I finally read “Alice in Wonderland.” I can’t think why this wasn’t on my shelf as a child as it would no doubt have made a terrific impact upon me. I think I would have loved the sheer creativity and terror and absurdity of it… and the illustrations if they were anything like the ones found in the fantastic hardback Bloomsbury edition I own with beautiful drawings by Mervyn Peake and an introduction from Will Self. Of course, I wouldn’t have picked up on the subtler aspects of this profound unsettling book at a young age. Alice’s struggle with identity is something we experience perpetually no matter how established we become in our lives: “Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle!” Alice’s body rapidly transforms. She encounters horror and hilarity, as well as a plethora of personalities all consumed with their own peculiar obsessive preoccupations and egocentric desires – what a true depiction of encountering the world! All the while, Alice approaches every obstacle with a calm sense of logic while maintaining her integrity and desire for civility.
The book’s great lines and imagery are so embedded in the public imagination that even without having reading it I was, of course, already familiar with much of what the story and characters. When I first came to study in England in 1999 I excitedly sat in my first class (where our task was to translate prose text to theatrical text) and volunteered to be the first one to present the first assignment. The imposing lecturer turned and narrowed his eyes down upon me enquiring in a thunderous voice “Who are you?” and I was reminded immediately of the imperial caterpillar from “Alice.” The phrase “curiouser and curiouser” seems common parlance, at least here in England and especially amongst the learned well-to-do. The character of the outrageous anthropomorphic beings and the very spirit of Alice herself seem to be a part of everyday society. This book is an incredible imaginative feat and I’m glad to have finally experienced the original writing.
Since it’s my birthday I’m feeling a little sentimental and want to express my gratitude to everyone who reads this blog. I’m flattered people find value in my thoughts about books and I’ve enjoyed immensely all the communication I’ve had with readers through the blog. It’s a passion project of mine that I really pour my heart into so thank you for giving it your attention. I had a lovely time over the weekend when my boyfriend surprised me with an overnight trip to Cornwall. We drove through the spectacular countryside and I paid a visit to the Screech Owl Sanctuary. I have a particular fondness for owls and enjoyed meeting these curious creatures which included Boobook and Siberian Eagle owls. What beauties!