There’s a literary wonderland that is conjured whenever Gregory Maguire releases a new book, and that wonderland is a literal thing in his latest work ‘After Alice’ – his enchantingly twisted take on Alice’s own Wonderland. Rather than give away any juicy plot-points or spoil any secrets with a shaky synopsis, I’ll simply highlight my favorite passage, the one that spoke most deeply to me, and the one that echoes the sentiments of certain folks who love books and try valiantly to share that love with others.
Only, sometimes, in the text of a book here and there, we tap the page with a finger and say, “This is what my lost days were like. Something like this.” But even as we turn to the fellow in the bed beside us to say, “Yes, this passage here,” whatever it is we recognized has already disguised itself, changed in that split instant. There is no hope that our companion can see what we, just for a moment, saw anew and hailed with a startled, glad heart. Literary pleasure, and a sense of recognition and identification, real though they are, burn off like alcohol in the flame of the next heated moment.” ~ Gregory Maguire, ‘After Alice’
Many are the books I’ve read and tried to press into the minds of others, and many are the unread books that friends have routinely and quietly ignored when I’ve brought them to their attention. Far from making me feel less alone, most great books leave me feeling an acute sense of loneliness – in the unshared resonance or recognition of some carefully-crafted passage of remarkable beauty, or some thread of a theme that they have no interest in pursuing. In reading a book that speaks to me, I mostly find friends and family falling by the wayside, and my only companion along the way being the author, ever unknown to me. I remain even more unknown to her or him.