Alice aloud

I’m a pretty big fan of super smart guy Merve Emre. Here she is writing a personal piece about reading Alice in Wonderland aloud to her children while in quarantine. She’s one of the few critics whose prose I can stomach, and this column of sorts is very lovely and typically thoughtful.

I lie awake at night and concentrate on Alice, on why my children have fixated on this book at this particular moment. Part of it must be that I have told them it “takes place” in Oxford, and now Oxford—or more specifically, the college whose grounds grow into our garden—marks the physical limits of their world. Now that we can no longer move about freely, no longer go to new places to see new things, we are trying to find ways to estrange the places and objects that are already familiar to us. A garden can be a chessboard. A tree can be a knight. A rock can be a mock turtle, and it can sing as badly as my younger son does, croaking and crying off key. The fixity of the body can will the flexibility of the mind. Alice, after all, is asleep, immobile. Her rabbit hole tunnels down into a dream that is self-contained and perfectly adequate. Everything she needs she already has, right here in her head.

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