Sunday, August 9, 2009

The one's I've already read: the Alice books

So, it will take me a while to finish Dune. I knew this when I started it; I have a lot of preparations to make for DragonCon, and so I have less time to read right now. Also, a friend of mine confirmed that Dune is a slow read. This made me feel better, because I've frequently re-read paragraphs to try and figure out what all was just said. It's nice to know that it's not just me.

But until I finish Dune, I will try to keep the blog going with a few more of these posts about the books I'd read before I started the blog.

So here's a way in which I'm a bit of a hypocrite - I did not like the free love in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Meanwhile, I love Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Of course, the Alice stories have no sex in them, but it is believed by many scholars that Lewis Carroll was most likely a pedophile - although a pedophile who didn't act on his desires.

It's a debatable topic. There's information that his family removed and marked out of his diaries. but that information may not be what we think it is. There are the nude photos of girls - but they were taken with the permission of the girls' mothers, and given to the families rather than kept by Carroll. But they are creepy to the modern eye. But there was a trend of photographing nude children at the time, as a theme of innocence. But still, they are creepy photos. I've seen them, and they make me want to wash my brain.

But when I read the stories, I don't find myself thinking about the biographical details. In my mind, the Alice stories exist outside of the seedier details of Carroll's life. Instead, I see his love of math, and games, of language and puns. He doesn't appear to have an agenda, and that allows me to forgive his personal flaws.

With Stranger in a Strange Land, on the other hand, I felt like I was being told that life would be better if we learned what the Man from Mars knew. I felt preached to (the long, speechy style did not help), and therefore I felt compelled to review the novel in terms of the flaws I perceived in the lesson. Likewise, Chronicles of Narnia. It's preachy at times. It evokes a response against preachiness in me.

Having said that, I am not a scholar on any of these works. I did not like Stranger in a Strange Land, but it's considered a sci fi classic. I disagree, and I can think of books that I liked a lot more which would be a good replacement on the list. But the list-makers are entitled to their opinions. This is the thing about reading books on a list - you won't like it all, and that's alright. These genres were not created strictly for my tastes. It gives me the opportunity to shape a sense of what I like in the genres, and choose directions from that. For instance, this list has made me into a Philip K Dick fan, and that's a good thing. It's nice to have things to read, but it's also nice to gain a sense of direction in my reading.

I'd also like to add that at the time in my life when I was surrounded by people who took illegal and recreational drugs, I spent many days amongst the druggies watching Disney's Alice in Wonderland. The druggies liked to speculate that anyone involved in something this weird must have been on drugs. Lewis Carroll must have been on drugs while writing Alice in Wonderland. The Disney animators must have been on drugs while they were creating this film - which is a ridiculous and laughable assumption for many reasons. Primarily, it just seems very unlikely that Disney employees were getting high at work. Not to mention, making an animated film is a very difficult and technical process, and back then they did the whole business by hand. I sincerely doubt anyone could carry this off under the influence of hallucinogens.

Lewis Carroll may have taken opium. It certainly was available, although it seems there is little to support the rumors of his opium addiction. Even if he did, I sincerely doubt he wrote under the influence. It was my observation during those years amongst the druggies that none of them ever did anything creative, or even productive.

Sure, there are artists and musicians who are both exceptionally creative and drug users - the 60s as a collective whole prove this. But those people were talented to begin with. Drugs don't create talent.

I feel a little regret that this post has very little to do with these actual novels. But this blog isn't about reviewing each novel, it's about the experience of the novels. My experience with Alice is complicated.

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