There are those who, when presented with a pun, turn slightly greenish, grimace, or simply cough out a weak and half-hearted non-guffaw. These people are on the road to Folly. The more logical thinkers among us (I happily and expectantly include you, dear reader) know better, of course: is there anything more enlivening than a pun, or better yet, an entire hardcover book filled with pages full of ’em? No! How dare you even ask such a ridiculous question–however, I’ll overlook it for the time being.
Gilbert Adair was previously know to me as the translator of Georges Perec’s magnificent Oulipo novel La Disparition, which in Adair’s capable hands became, in English, A Void. The titular void at its heart is the missing letter E, which spectacularly fails to appear throughout the entire 300-page book. So it makes great sense, in the context of this alphabetical absence, that Adair would put his gigantic mind towards fulfilling another literary gap–this time, the void of a third adventure for Lewis Carroll’s perpetually perplexed heroine, Alice.
Once through the needle’s eye, Adair’s Alice meets with all the sorts of easily offended talking animals and paradoxical situations you might expect, rendered with perfect lightness and spirit. Instead of a pack of cards or animated chess pieces, this time she encounters various alphabestial creatures from A to Z, all with her accustomed blend of curiosity (and curiositier) and nonplus-ability. For example:
“…It shut it eyes and stood for the longest time with one flapper pressed upon its forehead, as if deep in reflection, before asking at last, “When was the Battle of Hastings? Answer me that—if you can.”
It wasn’t at all the question Alice thought the Grampus would ask; and she half hoped the Emu would be unable to answer it, as History was her best school-subject, and she didn’t mind in the least displaying her knowledge of it. But the Emu confidently replied “1066,” for which it received a little round of applause.
“Pooh!” said the Grampus. “There’s no such time of day.”
“Oh, all right,” sighed the Emu: “6 minutes past 11, if you prefer. It was due to begin at 11 o’clock sharp, you know, except that King Harold, better known as Harold the Unready, was not—well, he wasn’t quite ready. Next question!”
Get it?? Get it?? Do ya, huh? Okay, enough of that. Rest assured, however, that anyone who doesn’t appreciate such stupid jokes is a real philistine… and all the rest of us are true connoisseurs.
–Isadora, Distinguished Carrollian*
*anyone who knows me by sight can easily distinguish me from any other Carrollian.**
**apologies to C.L.D.