Until now I thought the only way to experience Alice’s size changes in Wonderland was by playing her as an avatar in a computer game, fooling around with fun house mirrors, or the traditional way — losing yourself in her book. But thanks to a tip from Tobin Anderson I’ve learned that a Swedish scientist has successfully created another way. In his lab at Karolinska Institute Henrik Ehrsson is exploring illusions, one of which causes its subjects to feel they have changed size. According to this Discovery Magazine article:
In a typical experiment, a volunteer is being stroked while wearing a virtual reality headset. She’s lying down and looking at her feet, but she doesn’t see them. Instead, the headset shows her the legs of a mannequin lying next to her.
As she watches, Bjorn van der Hoort, one of Ehrsson’s former interns, uses two rods to stroke her leg, and the leg of the mannequin, at the same time. This simple trick creates an overwhelming feeling that the mannequin’s legs are her own. If the legs belong to a Barbie, she feels like she’s the size of a doll. If the legs are huge, she feels like a 13-foot giant.
Van der Hoort performed this illusion on almost 200 people. Questionnaires revealed that they did indeed think of the mannequins as their own body parts. Familiar objects didn’t break the spell. When van der Hoort threatened the mannequins’ legs with a knife, the volunteers’ skin broke into a worried sweat, as if their real bodies were in danger. If he touched the doll’s legs with a pencil or his finger, the recruits thought they were being prodded by giant objects. Rather than feeling like dolls in a normal world, they felt like normal people in a giant world.
Sounds pretty eerie to me, but given the chance I’d try it anyway. Wouldn’t you?
Every year I read aloud Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to my fourth grade class and then have them read on their own The Wizard of Oz. Along the way we learn about the books’ authors and illustrators, something of their publishing history, and perhaps view the most well-known movies associated with the two. This year, rather than doing an elaborate project with either book as I’ve done before, (as we’ve already got another elaborate project underway — a silent movie homage to Charlie Chaplin) I had the kids do blog posts comparing the two books. Now I’ve always found them connected for various reasons and so it was interesting to see what the kids had to say. Here are links to some of their posts:
Thanks to Anita Silvey whose Almanac entry yesterday inspired this post.
Thanks to Phil Nel for pointing me to this post about Suzy Lee‘s Alice in Wonderland. As soon as I saw it I realized I had the book, but had it long before I’d seen any of Suzy’s fabulous picture books (such as Wave and Mirror). Now looking at it I recognize her style completely. Delightful, of course. And eerie, of course, too.
Last night Jack Murphy and Gregory Boyd’s musical version of Alice in Wonderland arrived on Broadway. Now I am indeed quite a Carrollian, but a fairly selective one. That is, I don’t go to stage versions or buy book adaptations that do not seem likely to fit my tastes. And so I’d held off going to this version based on the videos I’d seen which left me completely cold. Charles Isherwood’s review in today’s Times only reinforced that feeling. He writes:
The model here appears to be the Broadway behemoth “Wicked,” which recast L. Frank Baum’s “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” as a moral-dispensing tale of exceptionally gifted young women (hitherto known as witches) finding common ground in girl power. Unfortunately “Wonderland” reminded me even more strongly of another latter-day iteration of the Baum story, the bloated 1978 movie version of the Broadway musical “The Wiz.”
You’ll recall — or maybe you won’t — that in the film the teenage Dorothy of the stage version became a grown-up, put-upon New York schoolteacher played by a saucer-eyed Diana Ross. The adventurer in “Wonderland” is also a harassed New York schoolteacher, Alice (the capable Janet Dacal), who aspires to write children’s books. Recently separated from her unemployed husband, she has moved to the “kingdom of Queens” with her daughter Chloe (Carly Rose Sonenclar, a good actress and an almost preternaturally skilled singer).
The problem for me is that Baum and Carroll’s stories are so different. The first has a driving quest plot — Dorothy wants to get home, but Alice hasn’t a similar wish in her original book — the only vague plot thread is her desire to get to the beautiful garden. The heart of Alice’s story is the wit, the language play, and the episodic encounters with odd creatures. I have no problem with someone figuring out how to strengthen the plotline as long as they maintain the humour and wit, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. (Nor was it, for that matter, in last year’s Tim Burton effort.) And so Alice as Dorothy-in-the-Wiz just doesn’t work for me. (And by the way, Whoopie Goldberg already did an urban Alice for kids years ago.)
One film that does, I feel, give a sense of what Carroll was all about is Dennis Potter’s Dreamchild which is currently and frustratingly not available on DVD. It does seem to be on youtube in bits so here is the first part so you can get a taste:
The Lewis Carroll Society of North America
Fall Meeting: Saturday, November 6, 2010
New York Institute of Technology
11th floor Auditorium 16 W. 61st St. between Broadway and Columbus Ave. New York City
The meeting is free, and open to the public.
12:00 Andrew Sellon “Welcoming Remarks”
12:05–12:20 Edward Guiliano “Greetings, and A Few Wise Words About Martin Gardner”
12:20 –12:40 Oleg Lipchenko “Butcher in the Ruff: Rendering the Snark (A Work in Progress)”
12:40 – 1:30 Adam Gopnik “Looking-Glass and Broken Mirror: Honoring the Spirit of Lewis Carroll”
1:30–2:00 Break and Book signing: Messrs. Gopnik & Lipchenko
2:00–3:15 Jenny Woolf “Viewing Lewis Carroll as a Real Person”
3:15–3:55 Cathy Rubin in conversation with Andrew Sellon “The Real Alice Liddell: A Conversation with Pictures”
3:55–4:25 Break and Book signing: Mmes. Rubin & Woolf
4:25–4:35 August Imholtz, Janet Jurist Election of New LCSNA Officers
4:35–5:15 Andrew Sellon “Meeting Mr. Dodgson: One Carrollian’s Journey”
Lewis Carroll meets Lady Gaga in this psychedelic update of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This new adaptation blends the lyrical whimsy of Alice with high-octane physical theater and the dynamic vision of acclaimed Hungarian director János Szász (Mother Courage, Marat/Sade, The Seagull). The result is a fresh, funny, and emotional remix of Carroll’s classic coming-of-age tale.
Next month at the American Repertory Theater. If you get to see it (I’m in NYC and this is in Boston so I probably won’t), let us know how it is. Looks to be much more up my alley than this.
Thank you, Alison Morris, for directing me to the book sculptures of Su Blackwell. Here are a few that are particularly apt for this blog, but the others are extraordinary too, many from classical children’s stories.
I have read aloud Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland yearly to my fourth grade class yearly since 1990. And I have always read from Martin Gardner‘s Annotated Alice. His passing was a great loss and there have been and will be many tributes to such an extraordinary man. Here is Michael Patrick Hearn’s.
Martin Gardner was my literary godfather. He was the most generous man I have ever known. I owe him everything. When I was only 20, he convinced Clarkson N. Potter to contract my book The Annotated Wizard of Oz as a successor to his own superb and now classic The Annotated Alice. He was always recommending me to editors he knew even up to last year. We often exchanged articles before publication to get the other’s thoughts on the subject. Mine benefited inestimably from his input. While he could so adroitly explain the most complex concepts to layman and expert alike, he retained the curiosity and the heart of a child. His integrity was impeccable, his prose lucid and profound. His influence was vast. Few realize that an article he wrote on L. Frank Baum and the Oz Books in The New York Times Book Review inspired the Broadway musical The Wiz. Who else was quoted by John Fowles in The French Lieutenant’s Woman and named by Nabokov a character in Ada or Ardor?. Of course it was his sister Judy, not Martin, who told me that. He was the gentlest and most modest of men. A true gentleman. Like everyone who had the honor of knowing him, I feel blessed to have been his friend and he mine. I will miss him terribly.
Thanks to those who, knowing my love for this book, sent this my way (and whose names I can’t remember).
For those who can never get enough Alice, here are some non-Burton-Disney video versions.
Alice in Jelloland
Alice in Rexall-land
Betty Boop in Blunderland