Sorry, I am going against the grain of the average 4 stars out of 13 reviews as I pen my review. I must be mistaken, but I feel this book is a waste of time. Here's my argument...
First, years ago when the movie 'The Matrix' came out in 1999 (which if you're trying to get a sense of my sensibilities I think is one of the top 5 sci-fi films of all times), a book came out shortly afterwards entitled 'The Matrix and Philosophy' (The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real (Popular Culture and Philosophy). It was a great book, and gave me a far deeper appreciation of what the Wachowski brothers were up to. The author tied into the clear philosophical messages inserted into the film and expanded upon the themes in a cohesive and relevant way (in spite of the brothers insisting it was just a Kung-fu movie).
As it happens, I am currently in the process of viewing every Alice in Wonderland title available (over 40!) and posting reviews on Amazon of what I learn in the process about how the various manifestations of the Alice story differ from one another. I've formed some opinions of why the Alice story is so compelling and enduring, and now that those thoughts are in my journal I wanted to see what scholars have said about Alice in Wonderland. Because of my positive experience with the Matrix book I picked up this one from the same series.
The first thing I noticed upon glancing at the first page is that there is now a whole 'fill-in-the-blank and Philosophy' series. There's everything from "Metallica and Philosophy" to "Batman and Philosophy". No less than 16 books in the Philosophy series. Uh huh. Someone came up with a great idea.... so let's just wring it for all its worth.
Still, I went into "Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy" with hopes that it was anywhere near as good as the Matrix treatment. It's not. I don't think so, anyway. I mean I don't hate this book or anything. It just let me down. The book has a different author for each chapter. This is a good thing because if you don't resonate with one author's point of view you might with another. However, I lost interest after three chapters and put the book down.
Chapter 1 is the Feminist perspective. Some professor at some college some-where ran a course entitled "Unruly Women Through the Ages", and Alice in Wonderland had been discussed. So this teacher was picked to do the Feminist chapter, and refers back to that course. That's fine, but the author's arguments about Alice and feminism put the horse before the cart. It became clear that the author already had a bundle of preconceived notions, and filtered Carroll's prose to fit her personal perspective. For example, she sees Alice's willingness to eat an egg in her encounter with the pigeon as a sign Alice was not yet ready to have children. Uhhhh...... maybe. I mean, she's only 7 years old. But is that what Lewis Carroll was thinking? The author continues to make what I think is a bit of a stretch on point after point. And what reveals the shaky underpinnings of her arguments is her constant reference to how her "students agree with her". Not, "some of her students", not "quite a few of her students". No, "her students", which is basically oratory that leaves the listener who is not listening closely with the impression that it is "all her students" who agree with her. Yet the author's assertions comes after an admission that of the entire class only two students picked Alice in Wonderland as their example Unruly Woman. Hello?
Chapter 2 is about something that actually makes sense. It's fashioned after the concept of 'jam tomorrow, but never jam today'... and the thing is, tomorrow never comes. It's always today. The author extrapolates that idea into our own lives, in that we fondly look back on past events, and we look forward to more and more good things to come in the future... but today... our present reality... kind of disappoints. It's a good point, but I'm not sure the author ever goes anywhere with it. Moreover he is not the best of writers, needlessly interrupting himself mid-sentence to parenthetically make some point that really doesn't need to be made. I gave up halfway through the chapter.
Chapter 3 was a short read because I stopped on the first page. The author made a reference to "Watch out for the Red Queen", as "she has a 'thing' about decapitating enemies". Excuse me please. It's the Queen of Hearts who does that. She is in "Alice in Wonderland". The 'Red Queen' is in "Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There", and she is playing a very different game. Yes, I know, Grace Slick uttered the line "and the red queen's off with her head" in the Jefferson Airplane's hit 'White Rabbit'. But look, it wouldn't have sounded very smooth to say "and the queen of hearts is off with her head", would it? Regardless, I would expect the author of a philosophy book on the Alice story to know his queens a little better.
So basically, I felt no compunction to continue. I suspect there is better written material out there.
UPDATE: I ended up purchasing 'The Annotated Alice' (The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition). My suspicions were confirmed. Author Martin Gardner, who provides a refreshingly balanced look at Alice, debunks some of the wild theories and interpretations of Carroll's works. I would definitely recommend Annotated Alice over the book under review.
All the Alice in Wonderland movie reviews in the aforementioned series are on Listmania:
1) Click on my user name (Everone's_a_critic)
2) Click on 'Listmania!'
3) The click on See 'Entire List'.