Happy Birthday, Alice

Some children’s stories stand the test of time because they are straightforward or simple tales. Others because the characters are so easy to love. Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, which celebrates its 150th anniversary tomorrow, is neither of these and yet it is a perennial favourite, reprinted and reimagined year after year.

Cover of Alice's adventures in wonderlandCovr of Alice's adventures in wonderlandAlice in wonderlandCover of Alice's adventures in wonderland

In some ways it is an unlikely children’s classic, this convoluted tale of a lost and bewildered child encountering a succession of bizarre and often menacing characters and situations. Or is it? Is that, in fact, exactly what childhood is like? An ongoing battle to make sense of the world, and the strange people in it?

Cover of Alice's adventures in wonderlandCover of The annotated AliceCover of Alice's Adventures in WonderlandCover of Alice's adventures in wonderland and Through the looking glass

I’m not the only one who thinks Alice’s adventures in Wonderland is something of a riddle. There have been almost as many books written about Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) and the genesis of his Alice books as there have been reprints of the stories themselves. Something about them resonates.

Cover of The Alice behind WonderlandCover of The story of AliceCover of The mystery of Lewis CarrollCover of The selected letters of Lewis Carroll

Alice, it would seem, is the Mona Lisa of children’s literature – endlessly fascinating and ripe for reinterpretation.

Cover of Alice in ZombielandCover of Alice in the country of clover, knight's knowledge 1Cover of SplinteredCover of Through the zombie glass

If you’re interested in reacquainting yourself with Alice, Wonderland, and her adventures there we’ve got plenty of books to choose from.

Also our friends at Auckland Libraries have put together a splendid resource showcasing images from their rare editions of the Alice books.

The Almighty Review

I like Tim Burton‘s style. Big Fish is one of my all time favourite films. And even though I’m not a big fan of musicals, I could appreciate the grim artistry of Sweeney Todd. That’s the thing about Tim Burton – some of his movies may not be that great overall (I cringed at his remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but you have to respect the guy for his  bold vision. So when I heard Tim Burton was taking Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and making it his own, I was looking forward to seeing the result.

But then I read a bad review. Correction: it wasn’t bad, it was scathing.

[Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is] the kind of film that you don’t just dislike or even hate, but one that your body physically rejects like a dodgy organ transplant. (from review)


Cover image of The Cinema BookSuddenly I wasn’t in such a hurry to get to the cinema. And it got me thinking about the power of reviews. What someone says about a film/book/album (or anything else one may have an opinion on for that matter) can greatly influence your own interest in that thing.  I’m not just talking about the reviews you read in the paper or online or hear on the radio or TV either. The trusted opinion of a friend is likely to be even more persuasive than that of an unknown critic.

What books or films or music have you got into because of a good review? What have you avoided because of a bad review?

No matter if the review is good or bad, though, it is still publicity. And as the saying goes: “Any publicity is good publicity”. Indeed, Tim Burton may make money out of me yet. Call it morbid curiosity, but part of me still wants to see Alice in Wonderland just to know what everyone is complaining about. There is also another part of me that wants the opportunity to make up my own mind. While others may not have liked the film, I might love it.  By choosing not to watch the movie, I could be missing out on something potentially wonderful (excuse the pun).

Which leads me to a very important question: What have you read/watched/listened to and enjoyed even though you were advised against it? Or absolutely despised, while everyone else raved?

Have you seen Alice in Wonderland yet? If so, what did you think? Is it worth paying a small fortune to see in 3D at the cinema, or should I wait until it comes out on DVD, or steer clear of it altogether?