Thursday, March 04, 2010
      ( 9:19 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
Last night's tweets;

Wall eyed bat totems guard bags of sugar.
Productive islands employ everyone.
Montezuma's wife's an angry cougar.
Toucan Sam knows how the jungle was won.


I'll definitely be seeing the new Alice in Wonderland movie this weekend, even though Roger Ebert's three star review of the film is pretty close to exactly what I expect from the movie. I'm too much of an Alice nut to miss it.

I found Ebert's impression of Lewis Carroll's original works rather interesting; "Alice's adventures played like a series of encounters with characters whose purpose was to tease, puzzle and torment her. Few children would want to go to wonderland, and none would want to stay," he says, noting that the stories are far better suited to adults; "There's even a little sadism embedded in Carroll's fantasy. It reminds me of uncles who tickle their nieces until they scream."

It's true there is something fundamentally treacherous about Wonderland, though my impression of the characters there to torment Alice was that they were often caricatures of the sorts of adults a real child would have to deal with in Carroll's England--with exaggerated, nonsensical tempers to emphasise what Carroll figured children must find to be truly patronising and exasperating in adults. The caterpillar, the flowers, the Queens, all come off as dedicated to ridiculous, unspoken philosophies they expect Alice to abide by.

By the same token, Alice herself is often portrayed as fallible, as when she tries to recall lessons, when she worries about the possibility of being a slow classmate named Mabel because she doesn't feel like herself, and her general naive willingness to engage with everyone she meets, however foolish they may obviously be. These things, of course, all contribute to her charm. There's a sort of latent sadism, perhaps, at perceiving oneself to have an advantage over an attractive person by creating her as being intellectually inferior, though one might say the charm is just as much about Alice's freedom to act innocently without the encumbrance of adult considerations and the neuroses that would prevent adults from the sorts of explorations Alice indulges in.

I was thinking actually along similar lines about a character in War and Peace, Natasha, who I have found to be extremely attractive ever since I read this bit;

In the damp, chill air, and the confined semidarkness of the carriage, for the first time she vividly pictured what was in store for her there at the ball, in those brightly lighted halls--the music, the flowers, the dancing, the Tsar, all the dazzling young people of Petersburg. The prospect was so splendid, and so incongruous with the chill darkness of the cramped carriage, that she could hardly believe it would come true. She only realised what was before her when, after walking over the red baize at the entrance, she had entered the hall, taken off her fur cloak, and, with Sonya at her side, preceded her mother up the lighted staircase between the flowers. Only then did she remember how she should behave at a ball, and tried to assume the stately air she considered indispensable for a girl on such an occasion. But fortunately for her, she was so dazzled that she saw nothing clearly, her pulse beat a hundred to the minute, and the blood throbbed at her heart. It was impossible for her to affect the pose that would have made her ridiculous, and she went on, almost swooning with excitement and trying with all her might to conceal it. And this was the very attitude that became her best.

I really don't have a right to feel superior--I've certainly gotten all flustered over things other people might not understand or consider trivial. But here, and several times afterwards, Natasha's charm is easily conveyed in situations where an enthusiasm overtakes her that she can't control. Tolstoy's mentioning of her pulse, her heart beat, and on other occasions her arms and her figure, drive me absolutely wild. And it's all wrapped up in this idea of someone beautiful having intense, pleasurable feelings not entirely with their consent. Which sounds a bit predatory and slightly dangerous, yet at the same time seems to be honouring the purity of human experience. It got me to thinking about the precariousness of society, with some parties wishing to sacrifice such excitement for safety's sake, and on the other hand it's worth considering that there are predators out there.

Later in the book, Natasha rather quickly and easily falls for a rake, but as much as this made me fear for her and aggravated me a bit, the scenes where her innocence is absolutely beautiful still seem much more significant.
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