marginalia || Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll; illustrations by Camille Rose Garcia

ZOMG, you guise—it’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by good ol’ Lewis Carroll, with shiny illustrations from Camille Rose Garcia. It’s fast become one of my prized books—never mind that The Boyfriend, a Lewis Carroll fan, is plotting to steal it from me. [I received this lovely edition from a contest at Book Club Girl—along with a tote bag and a signed lithograph of the cover image. It’s so pretty. And pink. And sinister. And pretty—the pages so glossy and yummy, and that new book smell, and that new book smell peculiar to art/design books. HarperCollins has allowed y’all to take a browse inside, if ye’r so inclined. It’s gorgeous, okay?]

What I know of Alice comes from the Disney version; that more faithful version starring Miranda Richardson as the Queen of Hearts and Ben Kingsley as the Caterpillar (my favorite of the Alice movies); and Tim Burton’s sequel/spin-off thing. I know Alice, and the cast of characters that abound in Wonderland—but I have never gotten to know her, and the place, firsthand.

I wanted to experience Carroll’s prose, his language. And so out came the book from its protective bubble-wrap. And so I read Lewis Carroll. I encountered familiar figures with a different lens. I encountered creatures I hadn’t experienced before, and once in a while, muttered, “Oh, so that’s how it goes!”

…this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. “But it’s no use now,” thought poor Alice, “to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s barely enough of me to make one respectable person!”

It’s a surprisingly fast read—enjoyable, fun and, of course, absurd. It’s easy to be pulled along by Alice’s wonder and awe and active participation in things silly and occasional disdain for the creatures she encounters. I love Alice. I really do. She’s not dumbstruck by the things around her. She doesn’t keep telling herself that it’s all just a dream. She’s spunky and precocious. And, once in a while, we are reminded that, as a child, she is still incredibly vulnerable.

“Who are you?” said the caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

Easy to notice early on that there’s a more sinister edge in Carroll’s story—I’ve always felt, even as a child, that Wonderland was whacked out, dammit, but Carroll’s prose (experienced firsthand) makes it realer, somehow. Scarier. For example, we all know that Alice grows and shrinks with every Eat Me and Drink Me that comes her way. And we’ve always seen her just grow and shrink proportionally. In the book, Alice’s body transforms in strange ways: her neck elongates monstrously that she is mistaken for a giant serpent, and when she shrinks, she is always in danger of disappearing entirely.

That is scary shit, y’all.

[Four photos come from awesomez The Pigsters!]

More on sinister-isms: Camille Rose Garcia’s illustrations are gorgeous, and psychedelic, and strange, and a little creepy. It was a wonderful contrast to Alice-the-Child. And I do confess that even though there were many opportunities for me to pick up Lewis Carroll, it was this edition that finally got to me. I like ‘em glossy pages. And I’ve discovered that it appeals to people who’d never touch “a musty ol’ classic”—friends want to touch it (harhar), and cousins are begging me to read to them, or let them take it home with them. So there’s definitely an upside.

Of course, I can’t wait to read Through the Looking-Glass—The Boyfriend has several copies of that, haha—and whatever else Carroll-Alice is out there. Plus, even though he also plans to steal Garcia’s lithograph from me, The Boyfriend has always liked the original illustrations. So that’s something to check out.

In the words of the Mock Turtle: “No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.” And, yeah. I am so putting that on a t-shirt.

18 thoughts on “marginalia || Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll; illustrations by Camille Rose Garcia

  1. Smart, fresh look at this old favorite, Sasha.

    This book is fantastic to look at. I was at a book-signing a few weeks back and a woman named Shannon saw this very book and picked it up…was staring at it trance-like. I started admiring it, too. Alice in Wonderland is SOOO not a kid’s book. Or maybe it is?

    The illustrations are straight from the unconscious, just like the story is. Amazing.

    You are right, Sasha. It’s scary shit, for sure. And powerful. I love it, and I’m glad to see the illustrations for this version fit the language of a book that requires a shaman for translation. :)

    1. I can’t help but show it off–little children whisper that they’d like to read it, aunts want to take it home, and my boyfriend wants to get the entire loot bag from me. “For safekeeping,” he says. :) The visuals are odd, for sure; This is not a children’s book, they seem to say. Still, they’re gorgeous.

      It’s fun, and silly, and absurd–but, yes, scary shit. It’s just so sinister. There’s always been an edge to Alice that I had trouble pinpointing before. But now that I’ve read Carroll’s words, it’s definitely there. It’s akin to how duplicitous dreamland can be, I suppose. [When I was a kid, I had dreams about the Cheshire Cat’s grin. Brr.]

  2. What a GORGEOUS edition! I am completely drooling over here, Sasha! I wants!

    I read Alice for the first time last year, and it was a pretty illustrated edition that drew me in too! I really enjoyed it – loved Carroll’s wordplay!

    1. This edition’ll be worth every penny. Hell, it even smells good, haha. I still can’t believe that I’ve read Carroll; I want to have a drinking party celebrating, “Yo Sasha Read The Real Alice Yo!” I’d always been intimidated in the past, but I give a lot of credit to this edition for drawing me in. :)

  3. Isn’t it an amazing edition. I was stoked myself that I finally got around to reading this. I do give the credit to the sinister drawings by Camille Rose Garcia. I was seduced by that spectacular cover.

    I am so envious that you won it and you even got an autographed lithograph. Very cool.

    1. I know that I wouldn’t have picked Lewis Carroll up at this point if it hadn’t been for this book, for Garcia’s illustrations. That might offend the purists, haha, but at least I got started on Carroll–will be perusing the ones with original drawings soon enough. :)

      And, haha, thank you. I really hadn’t thought I’d win–the Random Generator Gods have never been good friends of mine. The lithograph is gorgeous, and am having it framed very very soon. :)

    1. Haha, okay, Kat–but I give credit to these illustrations for pushing me to read the original texts with Tenniel’s illustrations. :)

    1. The Random Generator gods finally smiled down on me with this contest. The illustrations are riveting, and I’m indebted to them now, haha.

  4. I appreciate the new artwork and agree the book looks aesthetically pleasing, but am still partial to the illustrations of John Tenniel, mostly because they are so much connected to my childhood memories of the book. If I were a first time reader of it, though, I’d probably bowl over this new edition!

    1. Conversely, I have a fear–stemming from childhood, perhaps, haha–of Tenniel’s illustrations. I’m currently trying to read Through the Looking Glass, with Barry Moser’s illustrations.

      The quality of this book just drew me to it, ya know? I owe it to the fact that it’s so shiny, haha.

  5. Those illustrations are really creepy! And I love the way the text is shaped – winding back and forth in that one image – nice!

    1. It certainly added to the feel that the novel as a whole was incredibly scary and creepy. Love this book, the illustrations, the typography, even its smell, haha.


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