Go Ask Alice

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax –
Of cabbages – and kings –
And why the sea is boiling hot –
And whether pigs have wings.”

– Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

I was fascinated with full-length mirrors before I ever encountered the Alice books, but once I had, I would spend long moments gazing into reflective surfaces wishing there really were magical lands on the other side. My first introduction to Alice was, again, not through Disney, though I did have the book and record set in a collection of such albums that my grandfather gifted me with when I was quite small, but through the poem “Jabberwocky,” with it’s twisting rhyme and nonsense words that seem so real.

At first it was just a story, and I read it, and put it away. I encountered it again soon after I turned twelve. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had just come out on video, and I was crushing on Chekov (just…don’t even go there), and of course I read the novelization, where it was mentioned that David had invented a video game called Boojum Hunt, with two of the other scientists, based on the poem, “The Hunting of the Snark.”

I went looking for the poem, and found Alice instead, this time, an annotated version that explained the puns and social commentary – and I was hooked. Satire, puns, logic puzzles, Carroll really knew how to engage the whole brain, and Alice was no wuss, but a girl who figured out what she needed to do, and did it, and while she didn’t really like getting her hands dirty, she wasn’t afraid to try ANYTHING.

There are worse role models.

But I still like the Snark poem better.

And, because I’m that much of a geek, here’s the relevant passage from the novelization of STII:TWOK:

“Come, listen, my men, while I tell you again
The five unmistakable marks
By which you may know, wheresoever you go,
The warranted genuine Snarks.

“Let us take them in order. The first is the taste,
Which is meager and hollow, but crisp:
Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist,
With a flavor of Will-o-the-wisp.

“Its habit of getting up late you’ll agree
That it carries too far, when I say
That it frequently breakfasts at five-o’clock tea,
And dines on the following day.

“The third is its slowness in taking a jest.
Should you happen to venture on one,
It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
And it always looks grave at a pun.

“The fourth is its fondness for bathing-machines,
Which is constantly carries about,
And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes–
A sentiment open to doubt.

“The fifth is ambition. It next will be right
To describe each particular batch:
Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,
And those that have whiskers, and scratch.

“For, although common Snarks do no manner of harm,
Yet, I feel it my duty to say,
Some are Boojums–”

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Go Ask Alice by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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