LEWIS CARROLL: Fragments of a Looking-Glass by Jean Gattegno

LEWIS CARROLL: Fragments of a Looking-Glass

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gattegno, author of a previous Lewis Carroll published in France, soberly examines some pieces of the puzzle constituting Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Ms better-known persona. In alphabetical order, he gives us 37 biographical ""variations"" on the life or lives of his slippery subject--""Alice"" to ""Zeno's Paradox""--diversely illustrating the degree to which Carroll and Dodgson represent fragmented, distorted looking-glass images of an unsuccessfully integrated identity. Rather than attempting to unearth new material, Gattegno probes the curiouser and curiouser implications of well-known facts: the crazily compulsive letter-writing, the stream of ""inventions"" and ""systems"" (including madly convoluted methods of ""organizing"" correspondence), the lifelong stammer, the insatiable pursuit of little girls, the elaborately contradictory attitudes toward the Carroll name. In Gattegno's opinion the fictional creations are successive externalized restructurings of the Carroll-Dodgson psyche. Thus Alice ""is"" Carroll himself much more profoundly than she ever ""was"" the lexicographer's daughter whose name she bears. From the two Alice books to Sylvie and Bruno Gattegno traces a progressive abstraction and desexualization of the self thus projected. By the end of his life Dodgson's interest in symbolic logic--altogether eclipsing his other pursuits--was to complete the ""movement toward disembodiment"" and ever more drastic reorganization of externally perceived ""reality."" Gattegno's presentation of these ideas is not without windy surmises and self-important, self-generated complexities; but the justice of his approach--blessedly free of pseudo-Carrollian cuteness and condescension--eventually strikes home. A fitfully but incontestably penetrating reconnaissance.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1976
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell