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Inventing Wonderland: The Lives and Fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J.M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A.A. Milne

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0743228923
ISBN-10: 0743228928
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In creating Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, girl-obsessed loner Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) achieved a breakthrough in children's literature, a work unparalleled in its freedom of thought and spirit, observes Wullschlager. In her judgment, Edward Lear's fantastical poems celebrate his escape from Victorian narrow-mindedness but also hint at a sense of alienation heightened by his secret homosexuality. Peter Pan?the naughty boy who refuses to grow up?mirrors his creator, James M. Barrie, an "emotional outsider" who idealized his mother, was unable to relate to his wife and compulsively played with other people's children. Frustrated banker Kenneth Grahame poured into The Wind in the Willows his disappointments, fears and hopes, partly reflecting his inability to accept his disabled, semi-blind son Alastair, who committed suicide at 19. For Financial Times feature writer Wullschlager, A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh series crystallizes the 1920s' desire for escape, light-headedness and nostalgia. A joy to read, the author's delightfully illustrated study revises our understanding of children's literature as a cultural barometer mirroring adult anxieties and aspirations.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (July 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743228928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743228923
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,672,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Katherine Woodbury on July 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Victorians are experiencing something of a comeback after decades of censure as the strange, repressed, half-crazy relatives we don't want to tell anyone about. We are discovering that the Victorians were not so different from us.
The Victorians did, however, produce their own brand of eccentricity and none are as delightfully eccentric as the Victorian/Edwardian writers for children discussed in Inventing Wonderland. Jackie Wullschlager starts with that greatest of all Wonderland writers, the master himself Lewis Carroll and ends with Jazz Age Pooh creator A.A. Milne.
The eccentricity of these Victorian writers is their confident, and sometimes troubling, obsession with childhood itself. Wullschlager assures us, correctly, that these writers' obsessions did not cross the line into pedophilic behavior. To 21st century sensibilities this seems scarcely creditable, especially after reading letters by Lewis Carroll to various girl children. Carroll, Lear, Barrie and Grahame's effusions about childhood can only be understood within the context of the Victorian age, the age that produced and adored Wordsworth's overly quoted (then and now) "But trailing clouds of glory do we come/From God, who is our home" (Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood).
Wullschlager is, I think, a bit too dismissive of Milne, who is regarded in the text as a has-been, clinging to the last remnants of the Victorian celebration of childhood. Wullschlager's overall point in this regard, however, is well made. The Victorians invented and took seriously the concept of childhood as a wonderland. Consequently, they produced children's writers of a truly magnificent stature. When the concept of childhood=innocence & pleasure was abandoned, in the early 20th century (thank you, Freud!
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Format: Hardcover
As a self-proclaimed James Barrie freak, I've read numerous books and newspaper-magazine articles about him. The Barrie chapter in Inventing Wonderland is definetly one of the most informative, but it loses a few points in the entertainment department. I read the Carroll, Barrie, and Milne chapters and thought that Jackie Wullschlager tends to examine her subjects a little too closely. At times, her meaning becomes lost in a pile of pop psychobabble, but the overall impressions were very clear (especially Carroll's disturbing fixation with little girls). Especially touching were A.A. Milne's bittersweet descriptions of pride in his adult son Christopher Robin, but at the same time longing to play with his little boy just once more. Such nostalgic, personal pieces make the book is beautiful, but it would be about a hundred times more beautiful if the author had kept the stories a little simpler.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A wonderful book! I am so sorry it is out of print.
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