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Thursday, January 21, 2010

A change of pace--the Human Narrative Project update

My review of A Thousand Splendid Suns is available for your reading pleasure. We have had good discussion ensue, with insightful commentary on understanding Rasheed, the women protagonists, and the psychology underlying it all. So, feel free to join in the dialog.

So she took courage and went on again, "I didn't know that Cheshire cats always grinned. In fact, I didn't know that cats could grin."
"They all can," said the Dutchess, "and most of them do."
"I don't know of any that do," Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have gotten into a conversation.
"You don't know much," said the Dutchess. "And that's a fact."

The next novel is a change of pace. Novels tend, as a general rule, to explore the darker elements of our lives and of humanity in general. This is certainly the case for A Thousand Splendid Suns, although it ends with a narrative of hope. Our next novel, Lewis Carroll's (his pseudonym) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is a curious, playful text. It is literature that children can enjoy, full of fantasy and creative dialog between Alice and the idiosyncratic animals and characters that she meets along the way; yet the novel also plays with ideas and philosophies. It is above all a work of art, and as such it gives us food for thought (playful as well as serious) in a subtle and nuanced manner.

Reading the novel will also prepare us for Tim Burton's new Disney film, Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp. I'm always interested in how filmmakers interpret novels, and Burton is one of those, uh, creative types.....creative in that weird, creepy sort of way. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (and I will also be reading Through the Looking Glass) is our February novel, and the film is set to release on March 5.

You may read this novel/s as you like: it/they can be read as a child's book, as a trivial bit of fun, but it can also be read for the many possibilities for symbolism, metaphor, and philosophical speculation. For a taste of this, I leave you with a few quotes by Tan Lin:

"The Alice books manage to show both these quests--that of the child to look forward, and of the adult to look back--simultaneously, as mirror logics of each other....

"The quandry of a logically grounded knowledge constituted out of an illogical universe pervades both books. The questions that Alice asks are not answered by the animals in Wonderland nor by anyone after she wakens. It is likely that her questions don't have answers or that there are no right questions to ask....

"Nearly all the players in Wonderland, with the exception of the Duchess and the Queen, are male, older than Alice, and contentious, imperious, or condescending in their adherence to strict rules. Even in play, logic reigns rigidly in Wonderland in a kind of spoof of the analytical philosophical logic popular at Oxford in Carroll's day....

"Lewis Carroll was a teacher of symbolic logic at Oxford, and he love to make mathematical knots for his pupils to wriggle out of...."
(Quotes from Tan Lin's Introduction, 2003 Barnes & Noble Classics edition, pp. xi-xxxiii)

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