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Lewis Carroll: Writing Alice

On a boating trip with Alice Liddell and her sister on 4 July 1862, Carroll told a tale for his young friends' amusement about a little girl named Alice who fell down a rabbit hole and found herself in a fantastic world where logic and reason were turned on their heads. A handwritten copy of the book was presented to Alice Liddell as a Christmas gift in 1864. In 1865, the story was published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Wonderland was a triumph of imagination, toying with the limits of absurdity. It was sprinkled with clever little wordplays and logical puzzles. Carroll called Alice and the stories and poems that followed it "nonsense," a genre that defied message or meaning, existing solely for entertainment purposes. Despite his protestations, the deliberately silly world of the Alice books telegraphed a subtle message to his readers: Believe the impossible. Defy the rules. There were other fantasy writers before him, but Carroll really demonstrated that it was okay to let your freak flag fly - and that you could be wildly successful by doing so.

The book was immediately popular, prompting Alice-emblazoned stationery and other merchandise in a preview of the Disney marketing machine that would get behind it a century later. A sequel, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, appeared in 1871. (Today, the books are often published together as Alice in Wonderland.)

Alice's adventures have inspired countless stage, film and music interpretations. These range from cheerful and sunny to dark and disturbing, evidence that Carroll's tale speaks to all kinds of creative minds. It is no coincidence that both singer Marilyn Manson and director Tim Burton have been inspired by his books. Carroll gave his readers permission to let their imaginations run wild.

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