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Like Having Cliff Clavin Reading over Your Shoulder
on June 27, 2003
You're right: I have no one to blame but myself. (Fool me twice, shame on me.) I'd read another book annotated by Gardner before, so I knew something about what his notes were like. Still, I thought, who better to explicate the puns, colloquialisms, and mathematical, logical, and philosophical references in _Alice_ than one of the great polymaths of our time, a connoisseur of puzzles, and an aficionado of Victorian literature? Plus, it's hard to deny that _The Definitive Edition_ is a handsome one.
Well, Gardner has really outdone himself this time. The notes go on and on and on, eclipsing the actual text in length. While Clavin might interrupt a conversation on the Bermuda Triangle to point out the little-known fact that it's really shaped like a tetrazidrhomboid, Gardner thinks that when a character uses an idiomatic expression involving ferrets it would be relevant to mention a get-together that ferret owners recently held in New York City's Central Park. Much of the inside information Gardner does provide is along the lines of telling us that this character is based on Alice Liddell's third cousin, once removed, or that that character is named after Dodgson's pet gerbil.
I think Gardner may have finally succeeded in turning me off of annotated editions for good.