The Amazing World of Alice in Wonderland
The 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s birth.
Carroll scholar Morton Cohen, in an article published in The Times (23rd January 1982) announced that six pages were razored from Carroll’s diaries – which had been presented to the British Museum in 1969 – and destroyed. The ‘missing pages’ – now thought to number at least 10 – have since been subject to intensive speculation.
In 1982, Elvis Costello released the single ‘Beyond Belief’, with the lyrics
So in this almost empty gin palace
Through a two-way looking glass
You see your Alice
You know she has no sense
For all your jealousy
In a sense she still smiles very sweetly
Charged with insults and flattery
Her body moves with malice
Do you have to be so cruel to be callous
And now you find you fit this identikit completely
You say you have no secrets
And then leave discreetly
We can interpret Costello’s wordplay in a variety of ways. Some critics would argue that every generation finds its own ‘Alice’ – ‘you see your Alice’ – and impose their own sense upon Carroll’s original. Perhaps the interpretations of each decade – Alice as psychoanalytical nightmare, Alice as psychedelic trip – tell us more about that decade’s concerns than they do about Lewis Carroll and his work.
Costello’s lyric could also be heard as ‘you see you’re Alice’ – that Alice reflects us, as if in a looking-glass – and so we find that the ‘identikit’ we have constructed around her is just a mirror-image of our own culture.
In the same year, The Psychedelic Furs released ‘Alice’s House’. Its lyrics include the lines
In the house where Alice lives
It’s a mess of souvenirs
All the conflicting interpretations of Alice, all the half-truths and speculation may leave us with nothing but a confusion of memories and stories. Indeed, what is a memory box like this one, but a house where Alice lives, a ‘mess of souvenirs‘.
The release of Jan Svankmajer’s stop-motion animation film, Alice.
The First International Lewis Carroll Conference was held at Christ Church, with wide participation around the world.