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Are you going Through the Looking Glass this weekend?




Pretty much every review is going to conclude that if you really want to go through the looking glass, read the book.


Today, May 27th, sees the release in UK cinemas of Alice Through The Looking Glass, the follow-up to 2010's Alice In Wonderland.

It reunites most of the original cast, including Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway, but sadly, it seems, to even less impressive effect than first time around. And considering Wonderland wasn't exactly praised to the skies, that's pretty disappointing.

Tim Burton has eschewed directing duties this time (but is onboard as producer). Instead the film is helmed by James Bobin, best known for the two most recent Muppets movies.

Part of the problem might be that Burton's film was a mash-up of stories from both the Lewis Carroll books Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, meaning there were quite slim pickings left for Bobin in terms of narrative.

But, let's focus on the positives: it's another publicity boost for Carroll's work; and pretty much every review is going to conclude that if you really want to go through the looking glass, read the book.

The Alice books are quite possibly the best examples of books written ostensibly for children (for, in fact, an actual child: Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, where Carroll taught) but which thoroughly warrant reading or re-reading as an adult.

The surrealism, the imagery, the characters and the sheer inventiveness of the language mark it as, like the first Alice story, a great work of fiction, in any genre.

And in this case, inventiveness is meant quite literally. Looking Glass is where Carroll introduces the world, via Humpty Dumpty no less, to the concept of the portmanteau - a word created by putting parts of two existing words together.

The accident prone egg explains to Alice that, in the Jabberwocky 'slithy' means lithe and slimy, while 'mimsy' means flimsy and miserable.

The Jabberwocky, incidentally, is probably the greatest 'nonsense' poem ever written. As well as introducing portmanteaus, it also coined the words 'galumphing' and 'chortle', which may well be a portmanteau of chuckle and snort. And it's tossed away in chapter one of Looking Glass.

Later on there's another classic Carroll verse, The Walrus and The Carpenter, recited by two great Carroll characters - Tweedledum and Tweedledee - and referenced nearly 100 years later by another English master of nonsense verse, John Lennon, in 1967's I Am The Walrus.

One last thing on Through The Looking Glass; in fact, the last thing in Through The Looking Glass. It ends with an acrostic poem, the first letters of each line spelling the full name of Alice Pleasance Liddell, and ending with the question: Life, what is it but a dream?

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