Down the Rabbit Hole

For the second time in three months, Dalrymple takes to the pages of National Review and finds meaning and truth in an extraordinarily popular and entertaining work of fiction that is being turned into a movie. This time it’s Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, about which he says…


No writer ever combined such charming and instantly memorable nonsense with such matter for serious reflection, as well as such inexhaustible fodder for scholars and Ph.D. students, and it is very unlikely that any will ever do so again.


…and in which he finds many themes on which he has himself written, such as the abuse of language in the service of political correctness…


…humbler tillers of the intellectual countryside, such as journalists, will recognize Humpty Dumpty’s statement that the question of language boils down to who is to be master only too well in the activities of politically correct sub-editors, who change Mankind for Humankind, and chairman for chair or chairperson (though never hangman for hang or hangperson).


…and the ethical question of how to live…


It is obvious that Alice is a good, well-mannered, kindly little girl who, in her dreams and behind the looking-glass, enters a world in which everything is bizarre and arbitrary, as well as highly amusing. Goodness for Carroll consisted not of keeping moralistically to rules, or for that matter of breaking them, but of careful thought guiding a benevolent disposition applied to particular situations. Goodness was neither rule-bound nor without rules, but somewhere in between.

And as with the New York Daily News article posted by Steve below, this piece also contains a sentence that should probably be added to our quotes page: “How easy it is to confuse, how difficult to elucidate!”

Note: Registration is required to access the piece online, or you may of course buy the issue on your local newsstand.

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