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The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition Hardcover – November 17, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

"What is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations!"

Readers who share Alice's taste in books will be more than satisfied with The Annotated Alice, a volume that includes not only pictures and conversations, but a thorough gloss on the text as well. There may be some, like G.K. Chesterton, who abhor the notion of putting Lewis Carroll's masterpiece under a microscope and analyzing it within an inch of its whimsical life. But as Martin Gardner points out in his introduction, so much of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is composed of private jokes and details of Victorian manners and mores that modern audiences are not likely to catch. Yes, Alice can be enjoyed on its own merits, but The Annotated Alice appeals to the nosy parker in all of us. Thus we learn, for example, that the source of the mouse's tale may have been Alfred Lord Tennyson who "once told Carroll that he had dreamed a lengthy poem about fairies, which began with very long lines, then the lines got shorter and shorter until the poem ended with fifty or sixty lines of two syllables each." And that, contrary to popular belief, the Mad Hatter character was not a parody of then Prime Minister Gladstone, but rather was based on an Oxford furniture dealer named Theophilus Carter.

Gardner's annotations run the gamut from the factual and historical to the speculative and are, in their own way, quite as fascinating as the text they refer to. Occasionally, he even comments on himself, as when he quotes a fellow annotator of Alice, James Kincaid: "The historical context does not call for a gloss but the passage provides an opportunity to point out the ambivalence that may attend the central figure and her desire to grow up." And then follows with a charming riposte: "I thank Mr. Kincaid for supporting my own rambling." There's a lot of information in the margins (indeed, the page is pretty evenly divided between Carroll's text and Gardner's), but the ramblings turn out to be well worth the time. So hand over your old copy of Lewis Carroll's classic to the kids--this Alice in Wonderland is intended entirely for adults. --Alix Wilber

From Library Journal

Clarkson Potter published The Annotated Alice in 1960, and Gardner published the sequel More Annotated Alice in 1990. Here, Gardner combines and expands both to produce The Definitive Edition. This presents the full texts of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass, and "The Wasp in a Wig," a "suppressed" chapter of Looking-Glass. Each of these texts is accompanied by a lengthy marginal commentary that identifies historical and literary references and allusions, explains Carroll's logical and mathematical puzzles, and interprets colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions. Gardner's commentary is sufficiently detailed to be informative without burdening Alice with excessive pedantic baggage. The Definitive Edition also includes Tenniel's original illustrations and an exhaustive annotated list by David Shaefer of Alice on the screen. This is a happy contribution to those who appreciate Lewis Carroll.
-Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Annotated Books
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Upd Sub edition (November 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393048470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393048476
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 1.1 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (216 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

367 of 380 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I finally, and seemingly permanently, misplaced the 40 year old copy of 'The Annotated Alice' (which I had pilfered from my mother's bookshelf) for the last time. I can't go more than a month or two without it so I rushed to buy a new copy...just weeks before the more beautifully bound 'Definitive Edition' was published. No matter, now I have two (perhaps even three if the original turns up).
My point is that this book contributed more to my understanding of logic and wordplay than several semesters of college philosophy classes. If you've read this far then I am probably preaching to the choir but 'Alice in Wonderland' can hardly be classified as a childrens' book, dispite Disney's attempts to do so. The concepts Lewis Carroll and Martin Gardner bring to this tale cover such areas as set theory, meta-language, Aristotelian logic, topography, game theory, several pre-Socratic logic paradoxes, and even quantum physics. Yet John Tenniel's original illustrations remain as an welcome tether to the original publication.
Gardner does a wonderful job of bringing all the various aspects of these two stories together as he illuminates layer upon layer of meaning that might not be evident to an American audience or, for that matter, a 21st century one. My favorite gems are the French and German translations of The Jabberwocky.
This book ranks in my top five favorite books of all time.
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153 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Ian on January 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I always enjoyed the twisted logic and unique sence of humor that I found in Lewis Carroll's Alice tales, the only problem I encountered was that some of the jokes required information that was no longer common knoledge. For example: when Alice continually misquoted the old English nursery rhymes I found myself wondering what the actual versions were, information that every child in Victorian England could have easily told me but that has since been lost to obscurity. After reading through this book I found the answers to all my original questions as well as many that I never considered asking. At first I thought that the commentary would strip the original work of its character and reduce it to a lifeless shadow. I found that the commentary did exactly the opposite, in a surreal way it made the book even more entertaining to read. The incredible detail of the commentary and the wide range of topics covered made the comments themselves seem part of the insane illogic that pervades the realms of wonderland and looking glass house. This does not mean that the coments themselves are insane or illogical, on the contrary they are all intresting and many offer new insights into the books, what makes the commentary so entertaining is how the story of "exactly 7 and one half" Alice is juxtaposed with comments on how the structure of the plot relates to physic and Robert Oppenheimer. Altogether I found the Annotated Alice to be a wonderful read and a gorgeous book which I recomend to anyone who enjoyed the original tales.
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131 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Bryan A. Pfleeger VINE VOICE on January 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Annotated Alice provides a treasure chest of information on the two Alice books and on the man, Lewis Carroll who was responsible for their creation.
Martin Gardner provides annotations throughout the texts of both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Gardner's annotations help explain the inside jokes and mathematical and linguistic puzzles that fill the stories.
Reading the Alice books as an adult is quite a different experience than it was as a child. The books' complexity really stands out on a careful reading. In fact, what are generally regarded as children's stories can be amazingly frustrating to read due to the complexity of the language and the almost constant stream of puns that are sometimes lost on modern audiences. One must remember that the stories are told purely for fun. Unlike other Victorian children's literature one gets no morals, plot development, or character development here. Alice is a yound child who stays a young child throughout her adventures. She neither matures or learns anything from her adventures.
This is a very nice volume in its own right. It contains complete authoritative texts of both books and includes the supressed episode "The Wasp in the Wig." The original Tenniel illustrations are crisp and clear. The only difficulty is that the annotations are placed on the same page as the text in a small column that sometimes supplies more information than the text itself. The annotations themselves range from the definitional to the clearly eccentric. One can read all of them or only the ones that he or she is interested in.
On the whole this is an excellent volume well worth the effort to read if one has any interest in the world of nonsense literature.
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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps no other set of works in literature benefits more from annotation than "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Class." Martin Gardner, the author of a regular monthly column on recreational mathematics for "Scientific American," provides expert commentary on all the jokes, games, puzzles, tricks, parodies, obscure references and other curiosities with which Lewis Carroll saturated his writing. That means that you will find out who was the original model for the Chesire Cat and how the "Jabberwocky" poem translates into French. Actually, the definitions of all of those strange words in "Jabberwocky" is quite a load off of my mind. Besides, this edition also contains the full text of each tale, together with all of the original Sir John Tenniel illustrations in their proper places. The annotation runs concurrently with the text and Gardner also provides an introduction that covers both the story of how the books came to be written and some of the most interesting analyses of Carroll's works, such as those always fun Freudian interpretations. The bottom line is that either one of these books gets 5 stars by itself, so when you put the two of them together and add all this annotation, there is nothing to complain about. This is the perfect book for re-reading these books; I would never send anybody here for their first exposure to Alice, but once they are hooked on Carroll's sublime nonsense this will open up a whole new dimension or two (or three) of his work for them.
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